The cult books describing the functioning and the excesses of commodity trading can be counted on the fingers of the hand. We can cite The King of Oil, a work published in 2009 and dedicated to Marc Rich, the founder of Glencore. Or Swiss Trading SA, a work of an NGO which highlights, in 2012, the importance of the sector for Switzerland, from the coffee trade to that of cotton, gold, oil and coal. Grain merchants, a paving stone dating from 1979, remains to this day the benchmark for trading agricultural commodities.
A book published this winter by two journalists from the Bloomberg agency, The world for sale (Penguin, 2021), has its place on this list. Javier Blas and Jack Farchy dramatically illustrate the workings of a central cog in the planetary economy, an opaque and elusive behind-the-scenes world. “We would have preferred that you did not write it,” said Ian Taylor, the former boss of the Geneva group Vitol, to its authors during one of the hundreds of meetings they had with traders in this context.