Global trade down 3% in Q1 due to COVID-19 pandemic: UNCTAD

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A worker wearing a face shield and a face mask works in Toyota factory in Valenciennes, France, April 28, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

The COVID-19 pandemic cut global trade values by 3 percent in the first quarter (Q1) of this year, according to the latest data published on Wednesday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The downturn is expected to accelerate in the second quarter, UNCTAD said in a report, projecting global trade to record a quarter-on-quarter decline of 27 percent.

The report, How COVID-19 is changing the world: a statistical perspective, is a product of cooperation between the international statistics community and national statistical offices and systems around the world, coordinated by UNCTAD.

It noted that the drop in global trade is accompanied by marked decreases in commodity prices, which have fallen precipitously since December last year.

UNCTAD's free market commodity price index (FMCPI), which measures the price movements of primary commodities exported by developing economies, lost 20.4 percent of its value in March, a record in the history of the index. By comparison, during the global financial crisis of 2008, the maximum month-on-month decrease was 18.6 percent.

The report said plummeting fuel prices were the main driver of the steep decline, which plunged 33.2 percent in March, while prices of minerals, ores, metals, food and agricultural raw materials tumbled by less than 4 percent.

The UNCTAD warned that the duration and overall strength of the current downward trend in commodity prices and global trade remain uncertain.

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