For the small club of companies who trade the food, fuels and metals that keep the world running, the last decade has been sensational. Driven by the rise of Brazil, China, India and other fast-growing economies, the global commodities boom has turbocharged profits at the world’s biggest trading houses.
Who are those firms and what makes them so powerful?
They are the Club of 16 comprised of Vitol, Glencore, Cargill, Koch Industries, Archer Daniels Midland, Gunvor, Trafigura, Mercuria, Noble, Louis Dreyfus, Bunge, Wilmar International, Arcadia, Mabanaft, Olam and Hin Leong.
Together, they are worth over one trillion dollars in annual revenue and control more than half the world’s freely traded commodities. Many amass speculative positions worth billions in raw goods, or hoard commodities in warehouses and super-tankers during periods of tight supply.
How big are the biggest of them? Well, take Vitol and Trafigura as an example, they sold more oil last year than the oil exports of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela combined and their reach is only expanding.
Big trading firms now own a growing number of the mines that produce many of our commodities, the ships and pipelines that carry them, and the warehouses, silos and ports where they are stored