Sometimes the “fun fact” is that an often-repeated piece of information is just not true. For example, you’ll see plenty of otherwise reputable sources state that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world behind oil. But it’s not. Not even close.
Why do we think coffee is the second most traded commodity?
Well, in short, we think coffee is the second most traded commodity (after oil) because it’s been published as fact so many times. Representatives from Starbucks even reported it to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Coffee is incredibly important, however.
The website Perfect Grind Daily looked into the truth behind trade and found that “coffee is neither the world’s second-most traded product nor the world’s second-most traded commodity.”
“According to MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), coffee is the world’s 98th most-traded product. Green coffee comes in at 114, while roasted coffee ranks 301st. (All data appears to be from 2015.) Sure, we’re talking about products here. But there are plenty of commodities above coffee in this list: oils, metals, crops…”
They even found that “coffee isn’t even the world’s second-most traded agricultural product. That would be wheat, at position 70, after soybeans at number 54.”
The data isn’t there
Plenty of people have tried to explain and justify the claim, but the evidence just isn’t there, even if you look at future contracts.
However, it may be the case that coffee was once the second most traded product or commodity from a specific country or region (likely Latin America) at some point in the past, but it’s unclear which one and if the math works out by volume or by value.
If it is indeed true for Latin America, the data would be old anyway. You’d have to go back to the 1970s for coffee to potentially come in second place.
According to Politifact, some people have tried to set the record straight.
“Science writer Mark Pendergrast included the errant claim in his 1999 book Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. Ten years later, he wrote a correction (and fixed the error in the second edition).”
Pendergrast isn’t the only person to admit he was wrong or try to later debunk the myth. However, it’s a fun fact to throw out there. And once you say something catchy, it has a way of taking on a life of its own.
No matter how much people try to correct themselves, the myth lives on. But now you know the truth. — WTF fun facts
Source: “Coffee Isn’t World’s 2nd-Most Traded Commodity (But It’s Important)” — Perfect Daily Grind