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Doing research on commodities

This guide lists print and electronic resources available to SFU faculty, students, and staff. If you do not find what you need, contact one of the following Liaison Librarians:


This guide is designed to assist students doing research on commodities. It will help answer the following questions:

  • Where is the commodity found? This includes both the country or countries and the type of environment.
  • What are the environmental considerations associated with the extraction or production of the commodity?
  • How is the commodity extracted (produced) and by whom?
  • How much of the commodity is left?
  • Who uses the commodity (industries, individual consumers)?
  • How is the commodity used?
  • In what form is the commodity used?
  • What is the price of the commodity (current, historical, and trends)?

The guide also provides information on Commodities Market Trading.


Use the Library Catalogue to find books, research reports, and government documents here at SFU Library.

For books about commodity markets and futures trading: Use the SUBJECTS Commodity exchanges or Futures market and the sub-topics (called sub-headings) which include different countries (ie. Commodity exchanges - Canada) or topics (ie. Commodity exchanges - History). For information on a specific commodity exchange, use the exchange name as a SUBJECT seach - ie. Chicago Board of Trade.

For books about a commodity or group of commodities: Search by the name of your resource or commodity as a SUBJECT. Scan the list of subject headings to see what is available. For example, try searching for the subject, Nickel. You will see that there are many books on this subject. They are categorized by sub-topic (called sub-headings), such as Environmental aspects, and by a more specific topic, such as Nickel Industry, Nickel mines and mining. Look closely at these subject heading lists to find relevant books. Don't forget to try alternate terms for your commodity (ie. Canola is also called Rapeseed; pigs are also called hogs).

If you don't find any books on your commodity, remember that it is part of broader groups of commodities. For example, the commodity Canola is part of the Oilseeds group, which is part of the Grains group, which is part of the Agricultural group. The commodity pigs is part of the Livestock group, which is also part of the Agricultural group. Gold is part of the Precious Metals group, which is part of the Metals group.

Another way to find books on your commodity and various aspects of it is to use Keyword searching. Keyword searches are especially useful for finding chapters in edited books. For example, try this search: forest* and (ecolog* or environment*) and British Columbia. You will find chapters in several edited books and also some other subjects for further searching, including Sustainable Forestry.

Journal articles

Use these databases to find information about your commodity in academic, trade and popular magazines, newspapers and government publications:

Definitions & codes

  • Commodity Indexes for the Standard International Trade Classification, Revision (SITC) 3. 2 vols. (HF 1041 U552 1994): UN commodity codes. Find your commodity and get the code. This guide also helps to indicate the broader category to which your commodity belongs.
  • The Language of Commodities: A Commodity Glossary (HG 6046 E74)

Background information

Each of these reference books has some information on commodities, commodity markets, price indexes and other relevant topics.

Guides to information sources

  • Primary Commodity Markets and Models: An International Bibliography (HF 1040.7 Z95)

Associations & exchanges

In addition to the links below, it is often helpful to find an association or organization that is specific to your commodity (or commodity group). Use one or more of the sources listed in our Finding Business and Trade Associations guide to find an appropriate association for your commodity.



Here are just a few of the many commodity exchanges. Some commodity exchanges deal in several commodities, some just deal in one commodity. No exchange deals in all commodities. Consult the CRB Commodities Yearbook (below) to find out which exchange(s) lists your commodity. For a more complete list of world-wide exchanges, see the Rutger's University Libraries Stock and Commodities Exchange list or Yahoo's Futures and Options Exchanges list.

Commodity prices, commodity trade data & other statistics

Commodities Price Locator (HF 1040.7 Z93 1989): This publication, though dated, is still a useful place to start, as it covers over 150 publications that regularly report commodity prices. Details of the publications are also provided. About one third of these sources are government publications and may now be available on the web; others may be available through LexisNexis.

Current prices:

  • Look at the website of the commodity exchange where the commodity is traded for current prices.
  • Sharelinks Global Stock Market Quotes (go to the page and scroll down to Commodities and Futures there are two links to choose from depending upon your commodity)
  • UNCTADstat (includes the monthly Commodity Price Bulletin, covering the last 12 months for many commodities, as well as a statistical database)
  • Business sections of daily newspapers provide selected commodity prices. Note that our PressReader database has the page images of many papers from around the world, including the Asia and Europe editions of the Wall Street Journal. Since tables of commodity prices are rarely included in regular "text-only" databases, getting access to the page image of the newspapers makes it easier to find such information.
  • Check some of the resource-specific sources in the Historical prices section below as many of them also provide current prices.

Historical prices, trade data and other statistics:

General sources

Statistics and other information on all commodities or one commodity group (note:  Number of commodities listed differ in each of these sources, as does the specificity of the listing. It is best to check several of them for your commodity.)

  • BP Statistical Review of World Energy (BP Global): (downloadable (xls) data on consumption, reserves, prices and more for oil, gas, coal, nuclear energy, and hydroelectric energy).
  • Commodity Market Review (HD 1415 F61, Bennett Reference; library has 1995/96-present; ): FAO,. Food and agricultural products - production, trade, prices. See also the online data at FAOSTAT
  • Commodity Trade and Price Trends (HD 9000.4 C64; library has 1973-present - latest- 1989/91- in Bennett Reference): World Bank. Time series for prices and trade data for all types of commodities.
  • CRB Commodity Yearbook (HF 1041 C57; library has 1940-1984 and 1985-present; 2004 edition is available electronically): Production and prices for all types of commodities. Also notes sources of data).
  • Economist Intelligence Unit: Start with their ViewsWire product and look for a link to Commodity Analysis.
  • Historical Statistics of Canada (HA 746 H58 1983, Bennett Reference Desk; 11-516E, Statistics Canada Collection, and on the web): This publication has some statistics and also provides a reference to the source of the statistics.
  • International Financial Statistics (HG 3881 I63; library has 1979-present - latest in Bennett Reference): IMF. Section on selected broad commodity prices.  This is also available on the web at the International Monetary Fund - see IMF Primary Commodity Prices.
  • International Trade by Commodities Statistics  5 vols. (HF 1040 S7611; also available on the web- scroll down and click on full text link): OECD. Gives imports and exports by broad commodity for OECD countries including Canada.
  • International Trade Statistics Yearbook (HF 91 U4731: UN. Covers all commodities with data by country and by commodity (uses SITC codes)
  • Passport (formerly known as the Global Market Information Database) (statistics and market reports on many commodities by country, region or for the whole world. Also includes information on imports/exports, consumption/production, reserves. Data from 1977 onward is available.
  • UNCTADstat. (Online for SFU researchers.) "Commodity Price Statistics provide monthly free-market prices and price indices starting in January 1960 for selected commodities that concern commodity-dependant countries. Price indices are provided for commodity groups (including food, tropical beverages, vegetable oilseeds and oils, agricultural raw materials, minerals, ores and metals), and for all groups in current dollars and SDRs."
  • UNCTAD Commodity Yearbook (HF 1040 Y421): UN trade, production/consumption, principal producers for all commodities). Tables from the 2003 edition covering 1970-2000 are available online. 1988 edition and later has Commodity prices Annex.
  • UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics (HF 91 H331; also online): UN. Price and trade statistics for selected commodities.
  • World Trade Annual  5 vols plus supplements (HF 53 W6): UN. Trade data organized by SITC code.

Resource-specific sources

Resource-specific sources (a selection, more are available, search the catalogue by keyword to find them - ie. forest products and statistics; cotton and statistics. Some of these also have current price information. Most of these are periodic publications. Current issues are usually in the Bennett Reference Collection and past issues are in the Bennett stacks. By using both current and past issues, you can get both historical and current information):

If you are looking for truly historical data, here is an interesting source:

Medieval and Early Modern Data Bank (historical currency data and prices of a select few commodities)

Government information


In addition to the following Federal government links, try looking for information on the Provincial government websites (i.e., for Cod, try Newfoundland or another Atlantic province; for Western Red Cedar, try the BC government website):

United States


Web resources

In addition to the links below, search Google for information on your commodity.

Related guides

Student guides and style guides: