An interview with a Soft Commodity Trader

A Soft Commodity Trader speaks to Imperium Commodity Search

Tell us about your experience:

Job Title: Soft Commodity Trader

How long have you been in commodities?

Too long! Coming up to 20 years now. 

How did you get into the commodity markets?

I started working with a food manufacturing business in China, dealing with FMCGs, mostly biscuits, cookies and snack foods on the sourcing desk as an assistant.  I dealt with negotiating supply contracts with trading houses and producers in Africa/Asia for wheat products, additives, sesame seeds etc.  From there I was offered a role with a trading house working on sourcing and origination of cocoa, rice and nuts/seeds from Africa. 

What is the core purpose of your current role?

I now manage back to back trading of soft commodity products from our suppliers in Nigeria and West Africa and sell product into end users, processors and manufacturers in Asia and the Middle East.  We mostly deal with nuts, seeds and pulses as well as some wheat and rice product. 

How relevant do you feel your education was to your latter career?

When I was younger there was limited options that offered a real choice for me for my long term career.  I actually didn’t finish my degree as it wasn’t a field I wanted to continue in.  I started in a junior position at the foods business and worked my way up from there.  

What is the most enjoyable part of your role?

The travel.  We are lucky that we are able to meet with our suppliers and customers regularly to negotiate contracts, check on quality and satisfaction which lets us travel to India, China, Nigeria, Dubai, all over really. 

What are the biggest pressures you face?

Sometimes when we can’t find a buyer in time when we have product ready to be shipped.  It can be time pressured and mean that we have to find a trading house or trading partner to buy the product at a low/no margin which isn’t ideal.  As we normally sell directly to end users it feels like a failure to have to offload product anywhere else. 

Funniest moment?

In my first ‘real job’ I guess although it wasn’t so funny at the time.  We had a production line for a biscuit brand below the office that dealt with the manufacturing on site.  We had a containerised shipment of cocoa for this particular line that was delivered once a week which was enough to cover a weeks supply/production.  One of my jobs was to maintain relationships with all the suppliers and logistics firms that we used.  We had come back after Chinese new year so we had been low on raw materials for 2 or 3 days prior to this delivery turning up.  We received a container full of fridges from the port rather than cocoa!  Our cocoa went missing and to this day I am not sure if they ever found it, nor if they reunited the fridges with their rightful owners. 

What advice would you give to somebody looking at getting into commodities for the first time?

Find a product you have a passion for.  Enjoyment from the role comes from dealing with suppliers and customers when you are passionate about what you do.  

What 3 words would you use to sum up working in commodities?

Exhausting, Pressure, Rewarding