strategic reserves

The World’s Strategic Reserves Hold Pork, Oil, Helium, And More

From the US to China, countries across the globe have a habit of keeping large amounts of valuable commodities hidden away in case of emergency. These “strategic reserves” may seem obscure, but they may indeed prove vital someday.

According to the Boston Globe, strategic reserves are set up “to insure the nation’s crucial goods against a catastrophic drop in supply or spike in demand, which might arise from a natural disaster, a strangling of trade, a war, or any number of other dire situations.”

strategic reserves


Essentially, various governments build up enormous federal stockpiles where they’re deemed necessary. Here’s a look at strategic reserves in the US and abroad, and the goal behind national hoarding.


At least 40 countries stockpile petroleum in case of an embargo or major supply disruption.The US’ Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the largest of these, storing 695 million barrels of crude oil in underground salt caverns along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico.

It is estimated that approximately 4.2 billion barrels are held in strategic reserves, 1.4 billion of which is government controlled.

strategic reserves


Many countries have strategic reserves for food of various sorts, in case of famine or other supply issues. Countries like Russia reportedly have general food supply reserves, while others are more specific:

  • China has a strategic reserve for pork, which stockpiles live and frozen pigs to keep the market stable
  • Countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa have strategic reserves for grain
  • Canada’s Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has a strategic reserve for maple syrup to stabilize the syrup market

The US is one country without a food reserve, however, there is a financial food reserve called the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust to be used to buy from farmers in case of emergency.

strategic reserves


Asides from its oil reserve, the US is also known for stockpiling helium. The Federal Helium Reserve is a strategic reserve that holds over one billion cubic meters of helium gas — a supply kept for the potential need for airship use.

Since the need for actual usage in a military context is now slim, the reserve has been selling helium — in fact, it provides one-third of the world’s helium each year. Moving forward, it will begin to auction off helium to balance the skewed market.

Precious Metals

The US holds the world’s largest quantity of monetary gold in a high security vault in Manhattan, NY. Over 6,000 tons of gold are protected by the Federal Reserve on behalf of public sector account holders across the world.

Unsurprisingly, many other countries have stockpiles of gold and other precious metals too. It’s been suggested that China in particular may have as much as 30,000 tons stockpiled, but not reported.


Along with pork, grain, and precious metals, China has stockpiled about half the world’s cotton supply, which it’s attempting to sell off. Meanwhile, India is planning its own strategic reserve for cotton to secure supplies for a growing textile industry.


In Case of Apocalypse

Most strategic reserves are used simply to control market value in case of disturbances, but some really are for the biggest of emergencies: bioterrorism, epidemics, or any other apocalyptic scenario.

The United States has the Strategic National Stockpile at the ready, a reserve that would supply crisis zones with antibiotics, vaccines, chemical antidotes, medical supplies and more in less than 12 hours.

And should even that fail, and the world be scorched of all life, we’ll still have Norway’s seed vault: a strategic reserve of 770,000 seed samples from around the world, so life can start off fresh post-doomsday.


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Jennifer Markert