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What is the impact of international sanctions on commodity markets?

Impact of International Sanctions on Commodity Markets


International sanctions play a critical role in shaping the dynamics of global trade. They significantly mold the Commodity Market landscape, influencing prices, production, and trade balances. Sanctions are a common tool of foreign policy that nations use to uphold international law or defend national interests. They can either be comprehensive, disallowing nearly all transactions, or selective, blocking only specific types of transactions with certain entities.

As sanctions are predominantly geopolitical, they add an extra layer of risk and unpredictability to commodity markets. This impact is directly due to the commodity markets’ sensitivity to sudden changes in supply and demand dynamics caused by international sanctions. Whether you are a beginner, a seasoned investor, or an advanced trader, understanding the effects of sanctions on commodity markets remains fundamental.

Direct Effects of Sanctions on Commodity Markets

Supply Disruptions and Price Volatility

International sanctions can cause immediate disruptions in global commodity supply chains. For instance, if a commodity-rich nation is sanctioned, it may be barred from exporting its resources. This reduction in global supply can trigger a price increase and significant volatility in the markets as traders scramble to secure commodities from alternative sources.

An example is the spike in crude oil prices in 2018 as traders braced for the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran, one of the major global crude oil suppliers. This disruption can also create opportunities for traders and investors who can position themselves strategically in the volatility.

Changes in Trade Patterns

Sanctions can alter global trade patterns. In response to sanctions, countries may seek new markets, either for sourcing commodities or unloading excess supplies. For instance, when the United States imposed sanctions on Russian aluminum producer Rusal in 2018, Japan and European Union nations had to scramble for alternative supply sources. This scenario resulted in a reshuffling of the global aluminum market and a short-term price rally that benefited other producers in the market.

Indirect Effects of Sanctions on Commodity Markets

Inflationary Pressure and Currency Depreciation

Sanctions risk can cause currency depreciation in the countries targeted, leading to higher imported commodity prices and driving inflation. Citizens may also rush to buy commodities, pushing prices even higher and impacting the trading indices of these commodities. Sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe in the early 2000s resulted in hyperinflation as the country had trouble importing necessary commodities, thus erupting a scarcity-induced price surge.

Impact on Infrastructure and Future Production

Sanctions may stunt the development of commodity-based infrastructure and future production capability. For example, financial sanctions can disrupt a country’s ability to invest in exploration or equipment, subsequently decreasing future production. Russia experienced this after it was slapped with sanctions for its annexation of Crimea, significantly affecting its oil exploration projects in the Arctic.

Managing Sanctions Risk in Commodity Trading

Understanding the impact of sanctions on supply chains is crucial for anyone involved in the commodity markets. Advanced traders and investors continually monitor geopolitical developments that may result in sanctions, as these may influence both short-term trading strategies and long-term investment decisions. Being proactive in factoring in sanctions risk can help traders manage their portfolio effectively and mitigate potential losses.

For beginners, it is crucial to understand that while sanctions create disruptions in commodity markets, they also open up opportunities. Understanding the impact of sanctions on commodity markets will help you take advantage of their sharp fluctuations and shifts in trade patterns.


In conclusion, international sanctions have a profound impact on commodity markets. They affect the global supply chain and cause price volatility, disrupting trade patterns while also exposing economies to inflationary pressures and potential infrastructural lag. Irrespective of your trading experience, understanding the potential impact of sanctions on commodity markets is critical for successful trading or investment strategies. As commodity markets continue to be influenced by diverse geopolitical factors, staying informed about international sanctions remains of paramount importance.