The COVID-19 pandemic decreased global trade values by three percent in the first quarter of 2020, according to data from the latest United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published in a joint report by 36 international organisations.
The downturn is expected to accelerate in the second quarter of 2020, with global trade projected to record a quarter-on-quarter decline of 27 percent, according to the report by the Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities.
“Governments are pressed to make post-COVID-19 recovery decisions with long-lasting consequences. Those decisions should be informed by the best available information and data,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.
According to the report, the drop in global trade is accompanied by marked decline in commodity prices, which have fallen significantly since December 2019.
UNCTAD's free market commodity price index, which measures the price movements of primary commodities exported by developing economies, lost 1.2 percent of its value in January, 8.5 percent in February and a whopping 20.4 percent in March, according to the report, which stated that the maximum month-on-month decrease during the global financial crisis of 2008 was 18.6 percent.
Plummeting fuel prices, said the report, were the key driver of the steep decline, plunging 33.2 percent in March, while prices of minerals, ores, metals, food and agricultural raw materials tumbled by less than four percent.
Before the pandemic sent international commerce into a tailspin, global merchandise trade volumes and values were showing modest signs of recovery since late 2019, according to the report.
“In this time of crisis, we are putting out the facts as we know them today. We’ll continue monitoring the global trade landscape as it evolves,” said UNCTAD's chief statistician Steve MacFeely.
The report is a product of cooperation between the international statistics community and national statistical offices and systems around the world, coordinated by UNCTAD.