Chemicals and Feedstock Prices Sources & Strategies

Prices for raw materials depend upon the balance of supply and demand. If the demand goes up but the supply is the same, the price will go up and visa versa. The demand/supply balance can change seasonally or with market cycles. To understand what your raw materials may end up costing you, it is important to look at past prices and see what trends they follow. 

Where to find prices?

Collecting and storing data costs money so it is usually only done when there is a direct benefit. When thinking about where to find information, think about who would benefit from accessing this information and this might help you find sources. The more broadly a piece of information is useful, the more likely it will either be freely available or at a low cost. For example, corn is used by food manufacturers (corn syrup, corn meal, etc.), agricultural firms (feed for livestock), and biomass manufacturing firms (corn can be used to make ethanol). Because of the broad interest, you can find a variety of sources for corn prices. For chemicals that have a much more limited customer base, then it may be harder or more expensive to get prices.

Consider the cost of the data, who collects that data, and how they collect data

Free or $: Government, NGOs, company press releases - Collected via surveys or legal reporting requirements. Examples: Energy Information Administration (EIA), UN (Comtrade), and International Labor Organization.

Free or $: Regulatory agencies and trading exchanges - Collected via reporting requirements. Examples: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Census, Chicago Board of Trade, and U.S. Futures Exchange

$$$: Trade associations - Collected via member surveys and news. Examples: American Chemistry Council and PhRMA

$$$$: Private research firms - Collected via price surveys and industry contacts. Example: ICIS

Additional Sources - i.e. When all else fails...


If you need to contact a vendor or get an idea of what prices may be from a vendor's site, use one of the following resources to pull up chemical suppliers you may not have heard of.

Top Picks: Prices




Next Best Thing: Price Sources


Sometimes you won't be able to get that sweet Excel file with all the price data you want on a clean weekly or monthly basis. Sometimes you have to go hunting, like a detective, to piece together what you can to get an idea of what the raw materials cost. One way is to search trade journals and chemical company press releases for notices of price changes.

Factiva is a great resource for trade journals from Platts and ICIS. Use the Search Building to limit by publication, date, subject, and keyword. Sample search below with the Sources limited to Platts and ICIS. The Subject limited to Pricing/Prices. And then use your chemical in the Free Text Search box. 


One trick you can try is to use a historic price series (e.g. from ICIS Chemical Business Americas) and then use the economic indicators in Chemical Engineering to estimate and predict the prices in the intervening years.

For example, the multiplier for "producer prices, industrial chemicals" has 1982 being 100. If the multiplier for Sept. 1999 is 119.4 then Sept. 1999 prices were 19.4% higher than 1982 prices. By knowing the 1999 price or 1982 price one can determine approximate price in a given year.