A report issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which identifies the world’s 50 least developed nations, found the values of their exports rose by a collective 80% between 2004–06, recording their highest rates of economic growth in 30 years.

But increased dependence on selling primary products such as petroleum, low-tech manufactures, minerals, ores, metals and farm goods leaves the world’s poorest countries vulnerable to a reversal if the global economic slowdown continues to lessen the demand for primary commodities, the report warns.

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Seventy-six per cent of the total increase in the least-developed countries’ merchandise exports from 2004–06 can be attributed to oil- and mineral-exporting countries. The effect could lead to a repeat of the boom-and-bust cycles that have long plagued least-developed countries’ economies, said the report.