An estimated quarter-on-quarter decline of 27% is expected in the second quarter while commodity prices fell by a record 20% in March, driven by steep drops in oil prices
The COVID-19 pandemic cut global trade values by 3% in the first quarter of
this year. This is according to the latest UN Trade and Development Conference (UNCTAD)
data published in a joint report
by 36 international organizations.
The report says the pandemic has led to disruption in all aspects of
livelihoods and therefore affected regional and global trade.
According to the report by the Committee for the Coordination of Statistical
Activities (CCSA), the downturn is expected to accelerate in the second
quarter, with global trade projected to record a quarter-on-quarter decline of
“Everywhere governments are pressed to make post-COVID-19 recovery decisions
with long-lasting consequences,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.
“Those decisions should be informed by the best available information and data.
I’m proud that UNCTAD has played a central role in bringing so many
international organizations together to compile valuable facts and figures to
support the response to the pandemic.”
According to the report, the drop in global trade is accompanied by marked
decreases in commodity prices, which have fallen precipitously since December
commodity price index
(FMCPI), which measures the price movements of
primary commodities exported by developing economies, lost 1.2% of its value in
January, 8.5% in February and a whopping 20.4% in March.
Plummeting fuel prices were the main driver of the steep decline, plunging
33.2% in March, while prices of minerals, ores, metals, food and agricultural
raw materials tumbled by less than 4%.
The more than 20% fall in commodity prices in March was a record in the history
of the free market
commodity price index
By comparison, during the global financial crisis of 2008, the maximum
month-on-month decrease was 18.6%.
At that time, the decrease lasted six months. Worryingly, the duration and
overall strength of the current downward trend in commodity prices and global
trade remain uncertain.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic sent international commerce into a
tailspin, global merchandise trade volumes and values were showing modest signs
of recovery since late 2019.
The UNCTAD now casts featured in the report incorporate a wide
variety of data sources, capturing diverse determinants and indicators of
trade, but the situation is changing rapidly. “In this time of crisis, we are
putting out the facts as we know them today. We’ll continue monitoring the
global trade landscape as it evolves,” said UNCTAD's chief statistician, Steve
“I’m delighted the international statistical community could step up, mobilize
quickly and publish such a useful and fascinating report. It was a great honour
for UNCTAD to lead this endeavour.”