The rare-earths, a collective name for 17 metals, are crucial in the manufacture of a host of items, from iPods, low-emission cars and computers to missiles, and China accounts for about 95 percent of the world supply.
Liu Yinan, vice chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters, said no embargo has been placed on Japan because of the island dispute, and that lower exports to Japan reflected a general trend, China Daily reported Tuesday.
Japan, a major importer, is locked up in a dispute with China over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that has affected their bilateral trade. The dispute has worsened since Japan nationalized the islands, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan.
China Daily, quoting China's customs statistics information center, said total exports of rare-earths from January to September this year totaled only 9,967 metric tons, or a third of 30,996-ton quota set for all of 2012. Last year, China exported 18,600 tons against a quota target of 30,258 tons, the report said.
This year's exports both in volume and value are expected to be the lowest in a decade, said Chen Zhanheng with the China Rare Earths Industry Association, adding prices, after dropping for 14 consecutive months, may fall further, China Daily said.
China has reduced output since 2006, claiming it needs to conserve its scarce resources and to protect its environment from mining damage. Unfair trade practice complaints have been lodged by the United States and the European Union at the World Trade Organization against China, saying its export restraints are causing massive distortions and harmful disruptions in supply chains across the world.