8 Chokepoints Threatening The World's Supply Of Key Commodities

cocoa burning

Photo: AP

The civil unrest spreading across the Middle East and North Africa has threatened oil supplies and increased oil volatility.  But unusual weather conditions and conflicts around the world have had a major affect on commodities cutting production and putting in place export bans.Russia’s drought and wild fires have caused a ban on grain exports, India’s Maoist rebels have hurt the coal mining industry and political instability in the Ivory Coast has seen prices of cocoa soar.

Keeping an eye on the situation in these countries would be a good idea.


Ivory Coast's President-elect Alassane Ouattara has extended the country's ban on cocoa exports, which has been in place since its disputed November 28 presidential elections. The country is the world's largest cocoa exporter and exported about 1.2 tons of the crop in 2009-2010, according to the AFP. It's exports account for 34% of the global supply.


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) lifted a six-month ban on the mining of minerals earlier this month that was enforced to end illegal trade which affects 80% of the minerals.

North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema which make-up the eastern part of the DRC account for 85% of the nation's tin, gold and coltan production, according to Metal Miner. DRC also accounts for 15 - 20% of the world's tantalum (a rare earth metal) production.


The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Nigeria's main militant group, has threatened to resume attacks on the country's oil sites and political rallies ahead of elections in April, according to Reuters.

The oil-rich nation currently produces about 2.5 million barrels a day but plans to increase production to 4 million barrels a day. Nigeria is the sixth-largest OPEC producer and oil investors should watch the region given that civil unrest in the Middle East and North Africa has already been disrupting oil supply.


$80 billion worth of projects in India have been stalled because of attacks by Maoist rebels in Jarkhand, is the heart of India's mining industry. In fact the rebels are expected to earn $500 million off these mines, according to Foreign Policy.

India coal production dropped to 531 million tons in 2009/10, which was 70 million tons short of total demand, according to Reuters.

INDONESIA: Thermal coal

Indonesia's coal output this year is expected to reach about 320 - 330 million tons, 10 million tons below the government target due to weather disruptions, according to Bloomberg.

The country is aiming to ban thermal coal exports by 2014. It accounts for 30% of global thermal coal supply and this is most likely to effect countries like India that rely on Indonesian coal for their power supply. Unlike other countries dealing with civilian conflicts this disruption in supply stems from poor infrastructure and weather conditions.

CHINA: Rare earth metals

China has 37% of world's rare earth metals but accounts for 97% of the global supply. Last summer it cut exports, then choked all supplies to Japan over a border dispute, re-allowed shipments and then slashed exports by 35% again. Such arbitrary moves have caused prices to surge for these metals that are used in everything from iPads to missiles.


Wildfire and a severe drought hurt Russia's wheat production and has caused an extension of an export ban on the crop through the end of 2011, according to Bloomberg. Russia was the world's second-largest wheat exporter in 2009-10 shipping 18.8 million tons according to International Grains Council estimates. This most recent harvest was 1 million tons lower than expected.


As civil unrest spreads in the Middle East and protests continue in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, the price of crude oil has been rising. With world oil demand expected to grow by 1.4 million barrels/day in 2011 according to OPEC estimates the political unrest in the region is being closely monitored by the world.

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