Financialization and Global Commodity Chains: Distributional Implications for Cotton in Sub-Saharan Africa

Staritz, Cornelia; Newman, Susan; Tröster, Bernhard and Plank, Leonhard (2018). Financialization and Global Commodity Chains: Distributional Implications for Cotton in Sub-Saharan Africa. Development and Change, 49(3) pp. 815–842.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12401

Abstract

Restructuring of global and local markets has led to an increased influence of commodity derivatives markets on commodity price setting. This has critical implications for price risks experienced by actors along commodity chains. Commodity derivatives markets have undergone significant changes that have been referred to as the ‘financialization of commodities’, which we define as an increase in trading activity by financial investors and the reorientation of business strategies by commodity trading houses towards risk management and financial activities. This article assesses how these global financialization processes affect commodity producers in low-income countries via the operational dynamics of global commodity chains and national market structures. It investigates how prices are set and transmitted and how risks are distributed and managed in the cotton sectors in Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Tanzania. It concludes that uneven exposure to price instability and access to price risk management have important distributional implications. Whilst international traders have the capacity to deal with price risks through hedging, in addition to expanding their profit possibilities through financial activities on derivatives markets, local actors in producing countries face the challenge of increased short-termism — albeit to different extents depending on national market structures — with limited access to risk management.

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