Raw materials

The agricultural commodities market has often been characterised by large price fluctuations. Since many developing countries are highly dependent on raw materials for their export income, these price fluctuations regularly had negative effects on their development.

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The production of primary and semi-finished goods directly determines the income and living conditions of millions of people, who are unable to exert any decisive influence on this level.

In the 1970s, a series of agreements creating international commodity organisations were concluded within the framework of the Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), with the aim of stabilising prices through export quotas and buffer stock mechanisms. Due to the controversial functioning of these mechanisms, they were gradually abandoned.

However, the agreements and organisations still exist. They have gradually evolved into platforms for producer and consumer countries to exchange information about the global commodity market and to agree on specific issues, such as sustainable resource management, the fight for better working conditions, the fight against deforestation, etc.

The international commodity organisations (ICOs) are:

  • International Coffee Organisation (ICO), London;
  • International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), Abidjan;
  • International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), Yokohama;
  • International Grains Council (IGC), London;
  • International Sugar Organisation (ISO), London;
  • International Organisation of Vine and Wine (IOV), Paris;
  • International Rubber Study Group (IRSG), Singapore;
  • International Olive Council (IOC), Madrid;
  • International Cotton Advisory Council (ICAC), Washington;
  • International Copper Study Group (ICSG), Lisbon;
  • International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG), Lisbon;
  • International Nickel Study Group (INSG), Lisbon;
  • International Network on Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Beijing.

Belgium is a member of these organisations, directly or through the European Union (Commodities Group - PROBA), except for the Nickel Group and the International Network on Bamboo and Rattan.

Since the Paris Climate Agreement (2015), the issue of sustainable resource management has become mainstreamed in all commodity organisations.  It has been accompanied by increased vigilance on related issues such as the fight against child labour, the fight against deforestation or the search for greater transparency in the commodities sector, particularly through a traceability system (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the OECD Due Diligence Principles). This improvement in management and transparency and the fight against illegal exploitation are closely linked to conflict prevention.