More countries depend on commodity exports than before – report

Commodity dependence increased over the last decade from 93 countries in 2008–2009 to 101 in 2018–2019, according to UNCTAD’s State of Commodity Dependence 2021 report released this week.

The nominal value of world commodity exports reached $4.38 trillion in 2018–2019, a 20% increase compared with 2008–2009, the report shows.

“Commodity dependence makes countries more vulnerable to negative economic shocks,” said UNCTAD’s commodities head, Janvier Nkurunziza. “It can have a negative impact on export and fiscal revenues and adversely affect a country’s economic development.”

UNCTAD considers a country to be commodity export dependent when more than 60% of its total merchandise exports are composed of commodities.

Commodity dependence persistent in developing countries

Most countries that were dependent on commodities in 2008–2009 remained so in 2018–2019, according to the report, highlighting the persistence of this phenomenon.

Moreover, commodity dependence tends to mainly affect developing countries, with 87 of them being considered commodity dependent in 2018-2019

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% 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%. In both these subregions, all countries were commodity dependent in 2018–2019, except the Central African Republic.

In South America, all 12 countries had a level of commodity dependence greater than 60% in 2018–2019, and for three quarters of them, the share of commodity exports out of merchandise exports exceeded 80%.

Central Asia was the subregion with the highest level of commodity dependence in Asia, with an average share of commodity exports out of merchandise exports higher than 85% in 2018–2019. All five countries in the subregion were considered commodity export dependent in 2018-2019. 

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