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Doing research on commodities

If you need help, please contact Sarah (Tong) Zhang, GIS&Map Librarian | Librarian for Geography | Librarian, Data Services Team at 778-782-9704 or tza68@sfu.ca or Ask a librarian.

Introduction

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 region 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.

Books

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

Books about commodity markets and futures trading

Browse by subject in the Catalogue for topics such as Commodity exchanges or Futures market and the sub-topics (called sub-headings) which include different countries (e.g. Commodity exchanges - Canada) or topics (e.g., Commodity exchanges - History).

For information on a specific commodity exchange, use the exchange name as a subject search; e.g., Chicago Board of Trade.

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 Nickel -Environmental aspects, and by a more specific topic such as Nickel Industry or Nickel mines and mining. Don't forget to try alternate terms for your commodity (e.g., Canola is also called Rapeseed; pigs are also called hogs).

If you don't find any books on your commodity, search for the broader group of commodities that it belongs to. 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:

Background information

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

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.

Associations

Exchanges

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.

Commodity prices, commodity trade data & other statistics

Start with the website of the commodity exchange where the commodity is traded for current prices.

General sources

BP Statistical Review of World Energy (BP Global)
Consumption, reserves, prices and more for oil, gas, coal, nuclear energy, and hydroelectric energy).

Commodity Market Review (print)
Data up to 2010 from the Food & Agriculture Association on production, trade, prices of food and agricultural products - production, trade, prices. Also available online (sample: 2009/10 edition). See also the more up-to-date online data at FAOSTAT.

Commodity Trade and Price Trends (print and online)
World Bank. Historical (to late 1980s only) time series for prices and trade data covering all types of commodities. See the World Bank's Open Data page for more recent information.

Commodity Trade Statistics Database
Part of UNdata.  Data from 140+ countries starting in 1962.

CRB Commodity Yearbook
Production and prices for many types of commodities. Library has online editions from 1939-1942 & 1948 to 2 years ago, as well as print copies from 1985 to the present.

Data Planet Statistical Datasets
Cross searchable time series data from dozens of sources, including national governments and intergovernmental organizations such as the FAO, OECD, and UN. Start by browsing relevant subjects such as Energy Resources and Industries, Agriculture and Food, and Natural Resources and Environment. See these blog posts for more about Data Planet.

Historical Statistics of Canada 
Provides some statistics and also provides a reference to the source of the statistics.

International Monetary Fund - see IMF Primary Commodity Prices.
Includes a section on selected broad commodity prices. 

International Trade by Commodities Statistics 
OECD. Gives imports and exports by broad commodity for OECD countries including Canada. Also available in print.

International Trade Statistics Yearbook 
UN. Covers all commodities with data by country and by commodity (uses SITC codes)

Medieval and Early Modern Data Bank
Historical currency data and prices of a select few commodities.

Passport
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.

S&P Capital IQ
Go to Markets > Commodities to access current and recent historical prices for traded commodities. Note: You will need to register for an S&P Capital IQ account before you can access the database.

Statista
A simple to use statistics portal that integrates statistics from thousands of sources. Be sure to follow the links to the original source of each statistic to gather relevant context and additional statistics. Sample searches: coal & wheat.

Thomson Reuter Eikon + Datastream
Both the Eikon and the Datastream portions of this database provide detailed commodity data ranging from pricing to futures.

UNCTAD Commodity Yearbook (print)
UN trade, production/consumption, principal producers for all commodities. The 2003 edition covering 1995-2000 is available online: Volume 1 & Volume 2. Editions from 1988 and later include a Commodity Prices Annex. Also see: UNCTADstatUNCTAD Handbook of Statistics, Commodity Price Bulletin, and Commodities and Sustainable Development

Resource-specific sources

This is just a selection of resource-specific sources. In general, look for governmental and inter-governmental agencies that are responsible for specific types of resources. 

Government information

Canada

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):

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
See especially the Canadian Agri-Food Sector and Horticulture pages. 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Statistics
Includes landings from 1972 to the present and other useful publications

Export Development Canada
See especially resources such as the Commodity Tracker

Global Affairs Canada: Office of the Chief Economist
Research and analysis

Natural Resources Canada
Information on forests, energy, minerals and metals

Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada
Search Industries and business

Trade Data Online
Canada & US trade with other countries, by product and sector

Statistics Canada:

United States

Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Indexes
Start with the BLS databases ​​

FedStats
Search relevant US government agencies to find data and other analytical products on your commodity group

Energy Information Administration
Global data on coal, natural gas, electricity, petroleum and other energy sources

Foreign Trade Statistics
US Census Bureau

Interactive Tariff and Trade Database
US International Trade Commission

NOAA Fisheries
Data and other information on ocean fisheries - includes Fishery market news, which has historical prices from the Fulton Fish Market from 1987 onward, as well as other fish markets in the US and abroad

USDA:

USGS Minerals Information
Data on minerals, metals, stone, clay, glass, and concrete 

International

Europa
Check your commodity group under Activities or use the EUROSTAT statistical databases

International Monetary Fund
Includes IMF Primary Commodity Prices data

OECD
Many resources at the OECD site are fee-based, but the majority will be available via the SFU Library's subscription to the OECD iLibrary - start with the Statistics section

United Nations:

World Bank
Choose your commodity group from their Data by Topic list or search for other publications

World Trade Organization
Browse the WTO's Tariff and Trade Data to start

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