I have heard the claim that Coffee is the most traded commodity in the world right after Oil. Is there any proof of that?

I have also heard that coffee is the most consumed beverage after water? Any proof of that claim?

  • Well, considering coffee is just flavored water... ;) At least, that is how I get most of my water, even with it being a diuretic.
    – JasonR
    Apr 21, 2011 at 18:41
  • 3
    By cash or by ton? :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 21, 2011 at 19:52
  • How do you group commodities? Are all kinds of bread just bread? All kinds of vegetable vegetable, or meat meat? If Arabica, Robusta, Mokka, Espresso, mild coffee and instant coffee is grouped together, why not? Apr 22, 2011 at 0:02
  • Commodities have very specific groupings - that's what allows trading ("Commodity markets are markets where raw or primary products are exchanged. These raw commodities are traded on regulated commodities exchanges, in which they are bought and sold in standardized contracts." on Wikipedia)
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 22, 2011 at 0:40
  • 1
    "Most traded" is not very meaningful without a definition of the measurement; is it transactions or dollars, for example? Maybe coffe really does have the second-highest number of transactions per year (I have no idea), and is also correctly shown way down the list for dollar value traded per year, as indicated above? Does anyone know where records of the number of transactions per year for each commodity on all exchanges in the world are kept…?
    – user10416
    Nov 23, 2012 at 14:55

1 Answer 1


The first claim is definitely wrong for 2007 as far as trading value, based on data in http://comtrade.un.org/pb/CommodityPages.aspx?y=2007.

The summary below (based on that URL) is quoted from an article by Mark Pendergrast "Coffee second only to oil? Is coffee really the second largest commodity? Mark Pendergrast investigates and finds some startling...".

Please note that the author is quite possible the original source of the meme/quote: In the introduction to "Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World (Basic Books, 1999)", he wrote: "Coffee is the second most valuable exported legal commodity on earth (after oil).". That book is listed as the main reference for the claim on Wikipedia, alongside the link to Mark's 2007 article refuting the claim.

Now, as far as his investigations in 2007:

The comparison with oil implies that we need to take into account not just agricultural products but other mineral commodities. This led me to the UN Comtrade website, which covers many different products (http://comtrade.un.org/pb/CommodityPa ges.aspx?y=2007). Sure enough, for the year 2007 (the latest available Comtrade tables), "petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude lead the pack at $1.09 trillion, while petroleum oils (non-crude) amount to $495 billion. Natural gas is $200 billion. Copper is $120 billion, not to mention an additional $38 billion listed under "copper ores and concentrates; copper mattes, copper cement." Aluminum is $116 billion, plus aluminum ores and concentrates for another $16.5 billion. Gold (non-monetary, excluding gold ores and concentrates) is $87 billion.

Eventually we get down to vegetable matter of one sort or another. The Comtrade list goes on and on. "Wheat (including spelt) and meslin, unmilled" accounts for $32.9 billion (but compare that with the FAO figure of $49.5 billion for wheat and flour in 2006). "Cotton fabrics, woven," yield $25.5 billion. Meat (not divided by type of animal) accounts for $43 billion, milk for another $31.6 billion and leather $23 billion. "Sugars, molasses and honey" draws $25 billion.

Finally, there is "coffee and coffee substitutes" for $22 billion. Subtract whatever chicory, barley and other faux coffees sell for, and you have a somewhat lesser figure for pure coffee. Not exactly number two in the world, by anyone's reckoning.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .