Home page > Swiss Hub > Main Players > Commodity trading companies

Commodity trading companies

A commodity trader is one of the essential actors on the long process of getting commodities from the producer to the consumer. The typical trader based in Geneva buys a commodity from a producer and sells it to an importer or final user, moving the commodity from one location to another. The trader’s expertise is in transport, logistics, financial instruments and risk management. The more the trader manages the logistics in purchasing further upstream and selling further downstream, the more he can obtain a competitive advantage. Geneva’s trading companies tend to specialise in certain commodities, for example, in oil and/or gas, steel or in such “soft” commodities as grains, vegetable oils and oilseeds, rice, coffee, sugar, ethanol, cotton or paper pulp and paper. Interestingly, we see that both oil and sugar traders, for different reasons, are starting to expand into trading ethanol. To the activity of the physical trading one should add the required expertise of the “paper trading” used for hedging purposes. For oil trading, the paper trading is estimated to be 10 to 15 times the size of the physical market.

Grains, Oil seeds, Rice

Geneva is the world’s Number One site for the trade of grains and oil seeds, handling alone one-third or approximately 75 million tons of the global free trade in these commodities and three-fourths of trade in Europe (including the CIS countries).

Crude oil - Oil products

Of the 85 million barrels per day of crude oil consumed daily, we estimate that about 30 million barrels are traded internationally. To this volume, which corresponds to about 1.5 billion tons annually, one should add about 600,000 tons of refined products (corresponding to the quantity transported by sea). Geneva ties with London as Europe’s Number One oil trading hub with roughly one-third or about 700 million tons per year of the world’s free oil trade in terms of physical trade. We also believe that about 75% of Russian exports of crude oil and oil products are managed through Geneva.


In the worldwide physical trading of sugar, the Geneva region also shares first place in Europe with London: each hub manages one-third of the global sugar trade, i.e., 15 million tons each.


For the worldwide trade of cotton, excluding US domestic trade, Lake Geneva Region traders represent 22% of volume, i.e., 1.2million tons out of 5.5million tons traded globally, and rank first in Europe.


Historically, coffee houses and independent coffee traders based themselves on the Swiss German side, in particular in Zug. From the 90 Million bags traded internationally, at least half pass through Swiss-based companies, either industrial buyers or traders. For a number of years, traders have been moving to the Lake Geneva Region. Two of GTSA’s Members, Sucafina and Louis-Dreyfus, are active in trading of coffee.


Four major players on the ethanol market (industrial, edible, bio-fuels) are based in Geneva or surroundings.

Special Commodities

A number of less tangible commodity-trading activities should be mentioned as they involve large volumes and large amounts, although we do not dispose of figures to quantify this trade. All of them are traded in Geneva. First, electricity. Several major trading companies based in Geneva, such as Cargill, RWE, Koch, Sempra, are trading electricity. Second, CO2. In the wake of the implementation of the Kyoto protocol, CO2 certificates have become a commodity which is traded on a large scale in the European Union In this way, the polluter pays by buying certificates and industrial companies having invested in reducing CO2 emissions recover. Several of our Members are trading CO2 certificates. Finally, we have mentioned derivatives in the trading of Commodities, but also Freight has its derivative market (FFA’s) which are actively traded in Geneva.