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Oligopsony is an economic term that refers to a market situation where there are few buyers but many sellers. This limited number of buyers allows them to exercise significant control over market prices, often leading to lower prices for the sellers. It is the opposite of an oligopoly, where there are few sellers and many buyers.


The phonetics of the keyword “Oligopsony” can be represented as: /ˌɒlɪˈɡɒpsəni/Breaking it down by syllable:- Olig: /ˌɒlɪ/- op: /ˈɡɒp/- sony: /səni/

Key Takeaways

  1. Oligopsony is a market condition in which a few buyers dominate the purchasing power, leading to a reduced competition scenario and giving them significant influence over price and other market factors.
  2. Due to their market power, oligopsony buyers can often negotiate better prices and terms, which may result in depressed prices for suppliers, limited innovation, and inferior quality products or services.
  3. In some cases, oligopsony can lead to less efficiency in resource allocation, where limited demand can result in underproduction and resource underutilization, or make it difficult for smaller businesses to enter the market.


Oligopsony is an important business and finance term because it refers to a market condition where there are only a few large buyers who exercise considerable influence over market prices and suppliers. This limited pool of powerful buyers can dictate terms, push down prices, and reduce the overall market competition. As a result, suppliers may experience reduced profit margins and be compelled to maintain higher operational efficiencies to remain viable. Oligopsonies also raise concerns about potential collusion among the dominant buyers, which could lead to market manipulation, ultimately affecting the overall economic welfare. Being aware of oligopsonistic situations helps in understanding market dynamics, formulating regulations, and fostering a fair and competitive business environment.


In the realm of finance and economics, an oligopsony refers to a market situation in which a limited number of buyers exert a significant level of control over a large number of sellers, resulting in limited purchasing options for suppliers. This power imbalance grants the few dominant buyers the ability to influence the market in their favor, such as negotiating prices below the competitive market rate. Consequently, this may lead to decreased competition in the market and can often have a profound impact on suppliers and the overall economy. Oligopsonies can be of particular concern in industries where the purchasing power is concentrated in the hands of only a few major players, such as the agricultural or raw materials markets. Though primarily acknowledged for its negative implications, in certain situations, oligopsony can be beneficial for both the buyers and wider society. For example, if the few major buyers are government entities or large organizations seeking to promote fair labor practices, environmental sustainability, or other socially beneficial goals, they can use their market power to require suppliers to adhere to these policies. Additionally, in cases where an industry would otherwise face volatile pricing or excess capacity, oligopsony can lead to stability and a more regulated market environment. It is important, however, to strike a balance between the potential benefits and risks associated with oligopsonies, as excessive consolidation of purchasing power can hinder competition, growth, and ultimately the well-being of industries and economies.


1. Cocoa Industry: The cocoa industry exhibits an oligopsony market structure where a handful of multinational chocolate manufacturers, such as Mars, Nestle, and Hershey’s, control a significant portion of the market in purchasing cocoa beans from farmers. These large companies have considerable buying power, which enables them to influence the price of cocoa beans. As a result, small-scale cocoa farmers often receive lower prices for their beans, limiting their ability to negotiate better terms. 2. Tobacco Industry: The tobacco industry represents another example of an oligopsony, especially with respect to the leaf-buying process. A small number of major tobacco companies, including Altria Group, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, and Imperial Brands, exercise substantial influence over the market for raw tobacco leaves. These companies often dictate prices paid to tobacco farmers. The limited number of buyers and their considerable market power make it challenging for farmers to receive a fair price for their crop and negotiate better trading conditions. 3. Defense Industry: The defense industry can also be characterized as an oligopsony, with a few government entities serving as key buyers of defense products and services. Key global defense suppliers like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing cater to a select group of buyers, which primarily consists of governments and allied organizations. This concentrated buyer market enables governments to exercise considerable power over suppliers, influencing everything from pricing to technology requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an oligopsony?
An oligopsony is a market structure in which there are few buyers, but many sellers. In this situation, buyers have significant market power, allowing them to negotiate lower prices and better terms for the goods and services they purchase.
How is an oligopsony different from a monopoly or an oligopoly?
While a monopoly is characterized by a single seller dominating the market and an oligopoly has a small number of large firms controlling the market, an oligopsony refers to the buyers’ side of the market, where few buyers have significant influence over market prices and conditions.
Can you give an example of an oligopsony?
One example of an oligopsony is the market for agricultural products, where a small number of large supermarket chains or food processing companies dominate the market and can negotiate low prices with the numerous individual farmers.
How does an oligopsony impact the market prices and the economic well-being of the suppliers?
In an oligopsony, the few buyers have a strong influence on the market prices due to the significantly higher demand they generate compared to smaller buyers. Consequently, suppliers may have to agree to lower prices, which can result in reduced profits, limited market opportunities, and even financial difficulties for the sellers.
Is an oligopsony always detrimental to the suppliers?
Not necessarily. While an oligopsony can sometimes lead to lower prices and hardship for suppliers, the large scale of purchases by the powerful buyers can also create opportunities for economies of scale and higher overall sales volumes. This may lead to increased operational efficiencies and higher overall revenues.
How can a market transform from an oligopsony to a more competitive one?
A market can become more competitive if new buyers enter the market or if existing smaller buyers expand their operations. This increase in competition among buyers may lead to higher prices, broader market access for sellers, and a reduction in the bargaining power of the dominant buyers.
What are some potential legal and regulatory concerns related to oligopsonies?
Oligopsony market structures can be subject to legal and regulatory concerns similar to monopolies and oligopolies, such as abuse of market power, collusion, and anticompetitive practices. Regulatory authorities often monitor such markets to prevent unfair practices and protect the interests of smaller players.

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