Oxfam’s report, released ahead of new talks on an arms trade treaty in New York, estimates that about 12 billion bullets are made each year. It is a figure “enough to kill nearly every man, woman and child on the planet twice.”
The trade in ammunition for small arms is worth $4.3 billion, while the trade in firearms and light weapons is worth $2.68 billion, according to the report, “Stop a Bullet, Stop a War.”
Oxfam released the report to call for greater regulation of the trade, including in the arms trade treaty which is being negotiated. The next round of talks is scheduled for July.
The agency says only a minority of countries report on ammunition exports and there is hardly any monitoring by intergovernmental agencies.
Oxfam researchers found some of the biggest information gaps covers undocumented ammunition transfers to war-torn countries, such as Somalia and Afghanistan. The report says many bullets are diverted to the armed groups who prolong conflicts.
Of only 34 states that have publicly reported on arms exports since 2006, 28 mentioned their ammunition exports, including Britain, France and the United States.
Countries including the United States, Syria and Egypt, have voiced opposition to including ammunition in the text of the treaty being negotiated, according to Oxfam.
The aid group said ammunition sales must be covered by the new agreement.
“Guns are useless without bullets; bullets are what turn guns into lethal weapons,” said Anna Macdonald, head of arms control campaigning at Oxfam.
“It is absolutely essential that the sale of ammunition is included in the treaty and it is far better regulated,” Macdonald said.
“There are no global controls on ammunition flows and no global reporting system to keep track on where the billions of bullets are ending up. That must change,” she added.