Raw materials


The agricultural commodities market has often been characterised by significant price fluctuations. As many developing countries are heavily dependent on raw materials for their export revenue, these price variations regularly have negative effects on their development. The production of commodities and semi-finished products directly determines the income and living conditions of millions of people, who themselves are in absolutely no position to have a decisive influence at this level.

In the 1970s, a series of agreements creating international commodity bodies was concluded as part of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (CNUCED); the aim was to stabilise prices thanks to export quota mechanisms and buffer stocks. The operation of these mechanisms was controversial, and they were gradually abandoned.

The agreements and bodies still exist, however, but they have gradually been transformed into fora for producing and consumer countries to exchange information on the global commodities market and focus on various specific themes (sustainable resource management, fight for better working conditions or against deforestation, for example).

The International commodity organisations (ICOs) are the following:

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

Belgium is a member of these organisations, either directly or via the European Union (Working Party on Commodities – PROBA), with the exception of the Nickel Group and INBAR.

Since the Paris Climate Agreement (2015), the issue of sustainable resource management has become vital for all commodity bodies.  It is accompanied by increased vigilance in related issues such as the fight against child labour, the fight against deforestation and the search for greater transparency in the raw materials sector, particularly via a traceability system (OECD EITI initiative and diligence guidelines). This greater management and transparency and the fight against illegal exploitation are closely linked to conflict prevention.