The report said nominal value of world commodity exports reached U$4.38 trillion in 2018/19, a 20 percent increase compared with 2008/9. “Commodity dependence makes countries more vulnerable to negative economic shocks,” said UNCTAD’s commodities head, Janvier Nkurunziza.
UNCTAD considers a country to be commodity export dependent when more than 60 percent of its total merchandise exports are composed of commodities. Most countries that were dependent on commodities in 2008/9 remained so in 2018/19, highlighting the persistence of this phenomenon.
Moreover, commodity dependence tends to mainly affect developing countries, with 87 of them being considered commodity dependent in 2018/19. “Commodity dependence can have a negative impact on export and fiscal revenues and adversely affect a country’s economic development,” Nkurunziza said.
Out of the 101 commodity-dependent countries in 2018–2019, 38 relied on agricultural product exports, 32 on mining exports and 31 on fuels. Commodity export dependence in Africa and Oceania is particularly noteworthy, with more than three quarters of countries in both regions relying on commodity exports for more than 70 percent of their total merchandise export revenues, the report said.
“It’s especially high in Middle Africa and Western Africa, where it’s pegged at about 95 percent. In both of these sub-regions, all countries were commodity dependent in 2018/19, except the Central African Republic,” the UNCTAD report stated.
In South America, all 12 countries had a level of commodity dependence greater than 60 percent in 2018/19, and for three quarters of them, the share of commodity exports out of merchandise exports exceeded 80 percent.
Central Asia was the sub-region with the highest level of commodity dependence in Asia, with an average share of commodity exports out of merchandise exports higher than 85 percent during the period. All five countries in the sub-region were considered commodity export dependent in 2018/19.
Statistical profiles for 195 member states
The 2021 issue is the fifth edition of the “UNCTAD State of Commodity Dependence” series. It provides statistical overviews and individual profiles with commodity-related information for all 195 UNCTAD member states.
The detailed statistics are crucial for a comprehensive analysis of the causes and consequences of commodity dependence and contribute to the policy debate about the measures necessary to address it in the short and long terms.
The statistical report also includes a set of indicators on technology for each economy, reflecting the topic discussed in UNCTAD’s Commodities and Development Report 2021 released in July 2021. The latter report urged developing countries whose economies depend on commodities to enhance their technological capacities to escape the commodity trap that leaves most of their populations poor and vulnerable.
It warned that most of the countries are likely to remain trapped for the foreseeable future unless they go through a process of technology-enabled structural transformation. The statistics on commodity dependence across UNCTAD member states will inform discussions at the Global Commodities Forum scheduled for 13 to 15 September.
The precursor to UNCTAD’s 15th quadrennial conference slated for 3 to 7 October will help frame international policy discussions on commodities, especially on challenges and opportunities for developing countries and particularly commodity-dependent ones. It will feature four thematic sessions and a high-level roundtable bringing together experts, policymakers, high-level political and institutional representatives from all regions of the world.