The war in Ukraine continues to batter a global commodities system already weakened by the pandemic, climate change and the energy crisis. Soaring food and fuel costs have driven inflation globally and tightened monetary conditions, leading to a worldwide slowdown in economic growth. Trade, too, is expected to remain subdued this year, with the World Trade Organization predicting a mere 1% rise in global merchandise trade volumes as a result of the multiple shocks weighing on the global economy.

The commodities sector was at the centre of a number of GTR’s most-read news stories over the last year, from our extensive coverage of the Ukraine crisis and an ensuing weaponisation of soft and hard commodities, to the impact of trade on climate change and the need to ensure commodity supplies are environmentally sustainable.

Commodities financing – in particular, legal disputes – raked in tens of thousands of pageviews on our site last year. The flurry of trade finance litigation over the last 12 months has been driven largely by the collapse of several commodities traders in early pandemic times. Allegations of fraud and deception on the fringes of the market also drew in a record number of readers. Our most popular commodities story by some margin involved the exoneration of a global bank in a trade finance sanctions lawsuit, after it had been sued for refusing to pay a coal trader under a letter of credit, believing the transaction to be a breach of the US sanctions regime.

This publication, our first of the new year, provides us with an opportunity to take an in-depth look at the current themes emerging from commodities trading. This includes the growing possibility that some European lenders will return to the market after a period of nervousness and caution, as detailed in our report on the five key trends shaping the commodities market in 2023.

In the soft commodity space, one of our features outlines some of the top risks to grown agricultural supply chains this year, while another examines investment opportunities for the private sector that could help strengthen strained global food systems.

Elsewhere, in our Europe section, we explore recent actions by the West to introduce price caps on Russia’s crude and refined exports in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, and what the implications of these measures might be for commodities traders and financiers.

The much-anticipated reopening of China’s borders, as this publication goes to press, is also expected to be a major variable in commodities markets this year. Despite expectations China’s rebound will fuel global growth, economists warn of the possible side effects of a significant hike in demand from the world’s biggest commodities importer, including a rebound in price pressure and even a renewed tightening of monetary controls.