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Every “thing” comes from somewhere.
Here are the top producing countries for each major commodity worldwide:
The above infographic from BullionVault shows the top three producing countries of various commodities such as oil, gold, coffee, or iron.
The Many and the Few
The origins of the world’s most important raw materials is interesting to examine, because the production of certain commodities are much more concentrated than others.
Oil, for example, is extracted by many countries throughout the world because it forms in fairly universal circumstances. Oil is also a giant market and a strategic resource, so some countries are even willing to produce it at a loss. The largest three crude oil producing countries are the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Russia – but that only makes up a mere 38% of the total market.
Contrast this to the market for some base metals such as iron or lead, and the difference is clear. China consumes mind-boggling amounts of raw materials to feed its factories, and so it tries to get them domestically if possible. That’s why China alone produces 45% of the world’s iron and 52% of all lead. Nearby Australia also finds a way to take advantage of this: it is the second largest producer for each of those commodities, and ships much of it to their Chinese trading partners. A total of two-thirds of the world’s iron and lead comes from these two countries, making production extremely concentrated.
But even that pales in comparison to the market for platinum, which is so heavily concentrated that only a few countries are significant producers. South Africa extracts 71% of all platinum, while Russia and Zimbabwe combine for another 19% of global production. That means that only one in every 10 ounces of platinum comes from a country other than those three sources.