I'm not an economist, so I'm looking for help making sure I'm not reinventing the wheel, or if I am, that it's at least round. I've been set the task of modeling a multi-step supply chain using UN trade flow data. If you're not familiar, for a given commodity and country, I have quantity and value of that commodity imported, exported, re-imported and re-exported. I've also got production quantity (for most things) from the FAO. I'm trying to use this information to characterize players in a commodity market to try to predict where commodity transformation is taking place (e.g. roasting coffee beans, pressing olive oil, etc.) so that I know what flow to follow out of each nation.

I've worked up some basic values that let me start to get a sense of a country's role in the market. Things like ratio of imports to exports, ranking (for that year and commodity) by import total, export total, and production total, ratio of production to imports/exports, etc. Notably, I don't have any data on consumption, which makes this all tricky (If you've got leads, I'd love to hear them!).

I've started characterizing countries by making observations like "high production and exports, low imports" would be an export economy. "Low production, but high trade flows" is a broker nation (they'd also have a high value for the ratio of re-exports to imports). I'm hoping to then compare these characterizations between adjacent commodities in a supply chain to detect where transformations are happening. I.e., if a country is a large import economy for green coffee beans and a large export economy for roasted coffee, they're probably acting as a roaster, whereas a country that is a large importer of green coffee, but doesn't export roasted coffee is consuming the roasted coffee.

My question (finally) is if there is literature or established theory on these kinds of classifications. I've come up with Consumer, Broker, Exporter, Producer, but I'd like to know if there are other ways to slice this. I assume this exists, and I've tried finding sources, but I'm not finding much useful. I probably just lack the vocabulary to describe what I'm interested in.

  • $\begingroup$ A couple of hints to help you on your way: 1. take a look at MIT's OEC -- it's designed to help get in to questions like this. 2. You might need to take into account the size of each economy, otherwise I think you'll find that small countries (which tend to have high import/export values, purely because of where borders fall) will all come out as "broker economies" in your model. 3. If you've not come across the phrase "global value chain" yet then google it. $\endgroup$ – Dan Jul 1 '19 at 8:38

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