We hear it said often among coffee professionals and have even said it ourselves, coffee is the 2nd most traded commodity in the world after oil. This “fact” has been found in published books, countless websites, academic theses, and more. Recently, Starbucks even repeated it to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
But is it true? The more we keep saying it is, the more we devalue the actual worth of the coffee industry.
According to MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), coffee is the world’s98th most-traded product. Green coffee comes in at 114, while roasted coffee ranks 301st. (All data appears to be from 2015.) In fact, coffee isn’t even the world’s second-most traded agricultural product. That would be wheat, at position 70, after soybeans at number 54. Calculating the world market for coffee is a little tricky because the United Nations trade data lumps coffee in with other products that contain even just a trace of coffee, such as powdered mixes.
According to Politifact, with help from John Baffes, senior economist at the World Bank’s Development Prospects Group, The size of the coffee export market is estimated at about $19 billion. (The amount of coffee sold from the International Coffee Organization and the average price per kilogram from the World Bank. Baffes confirmed our math).
Surprised? We certainly are! Although many in the coffee industry have debunked it, the myth still remains. The problem with this myth is that it devalues the coffee industry. The good news is that coffee is still a huge commodity and as we fellow coffee lovers all know, we can’t live without it.