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What is a Hundredweight (CWT)?

Despite global metric adoption, a traditional unit termed the hundredweight or CWT persists within select industries dealing with agriculture, commodities, and freight transportation. In this article, we will learn the traces of CWT’s roots through intricate definitions and manage the calculation while exemplifying real-world use cases, thereby elucidating its present-day relevance.

What is CWT (Hundredweight), and how do you calculate it?

A hundredweight (CWT) is a unit of measurement used to define the quantities of certain commodities being bought and sold in India. It is used in some commodities trading contracts. Pricing by hundredweight is also a standard option for shipping packages that take up less than an entire truckload. Usage of hundredweight more generally has declined in favour of contract specifications in kilograms.

The value of a hundredweight differs in its American and British usage. In the United States, a hundredweight is a unit equal to 100 pounds. In the United Kingdom, a hundredweight equals 112 pounds. The two values are sometimes distinguished by referring to the American hundredweight as a “short hundredweight” and the British hundredweight as a “long hundredweight.” The short hundredweight is also sometimes called a “quintal.”

Origins of the Hundredweight as a unit of weight

Dating centuries back to medieval England, the notion of a hundredweight unit took root given raw materials were exchanged batch-wise based on physical weighing scales rather than per piece. Goods like sugar, wax, spices, etc., saw transactions in batches equivalent to 100 or 112 pounds rather than singular units. 

Come 1324 AD, monarch Edward III cemented the value of 1 “stone” at 14 pounds. With 8 stones equaling 112 pounds in total, this birthed the Imperial system’s “long hundredweight,” equaling 112 pounds. However, early American colonies aligned closer to 100-pound Hundredweights, eventually creating a second parallel convention.  

Coexistence of Dual Hundredweight values in Britain and America

By the 19th century, two distinct values for the same terminology, Hundredweight/CWT, prevailed between British Imperial and early American unit systems:

1. Imperial (British) Hundredweight = 112 pounds

2. American/Canadian Hundredweight = 100 pounds 

So the terminology stayed common, but actual weights diverged by 12 pounds, creating enduring complexity! Late 1800s laws also deemed the 100-pound value usage in Britain illegal, adding quirks.

While America stuck to its colonial reference, Britain legalised the casual usage of cental (for 100 pounds) in 1879 but barred referring to it as CWT, given its formal 112-pound definition. These facets precipitate the sensibilities required to deploy CWT across regions even today.

Key industries still deploying the Hundredweight

Despite the inevitability of metric dominance, the Imperial-rooted CWT device continues to be littered across specific commodities and freight sectors where legacy conventions perpetuate like:

1. Commodities trading

Contracts around transactions of agriculture goods, livestock, metals, etc., still witness CWT clinging on as standard units of measure.

2. Shipping and freight transportation

Vessel loading/unloading capacities and container volume limits are defined by combining metric tonnages with CWT combos across logistics.

3. Food services

Hospitality sectors like restaurants and hotels rely on Imperial pounds/CWT when placing wholesale meat orders and related products.  

As we can see, the CWT apparatus holds contextual merit within domains that are unwilling to overhaul traditionally entrenched business processes solely for metrication – often international by nature.

Everyday examples clarifying CWT application

Let us demonstrate practical CWT adoption through some common scenarios where they simplify bulk representation:

1. Agriculture and commodities trading

– Cattle priced and sold by cents/dollar per CWT indexing weights

– Grain procurement contracts denote volume by pounds/CWT combinations  

2. Shipping and freight

– Vessel container capacity denoted by “X metric tons + Y CWT” combo  

– Bulk cargo orders also combine tonnage + CWT values for unified measure  

3. Construction and building materials

– Steel beams and aggregates priced by metric tonnage + CWT supplemental

Thus, through examples, we find Imperial CWT units entrenched across reporting, contracts, and compliance, often fused within metric quantities globally.

How is CWT used in India?

In India, the hundredweight continues application across specific sectors like agriculture, commodities, and freight where traditional conventions prevail:

  • Commodities contracts denote trade volumes combining metric tonnes + CWTs
  • Wholesale meat orders use Imperial pounds + CWTs

CWT shipping vs LTL shipping

Indian transporters can choose between CWT or LTL (less than truckload) pricing:

  • CWT suits frequent shippers executing small orders to multiple destinations
  • LTL works for large goods to a single location needing palletisation
  • LTL has handling overhead but suits big/irregular cargo. CWT implies simpler logistics for piecemeal orders.

Freight Pricing using CWT

  • If the rate = ₹50 per shipment CWT
  • Order Weight = 300 kg
  • Then Shipment CWTs = 300/100 = 3
  • Shipping Charge = 3 x ₹50 = ₹150

Thus, CWT retains contextual merit despite metrification trends.

Advantages driving continued Hundredweight relevance 

Despite changing trends, compelling attributes support sustained CWT relevance in the 21st century.

1. Ingrained legacy considerations

Entities are comfortable trading raw materials using Imperial/English systems and lean on CWTs to uphold conventions.

2. Ease of weight capture for heavy materials

Avoids unwieldy decimal points that metric tonnes/kilograms invite when denoting bulky industrial goods.

3. Pricing scale suitability

Cents per CWT model provides optimally sized pricing gradations concerning these commodities.

4. Contracts lock-in

Multi-year procurement contracts with predefined volume/pricing in CWTs deter rapid overhauls.

Thus, CWTs prevail, interfacing legacy trade norms, contracts, compliance and software systems tied to those Imperial units. 

Shipping Management – Hundredweight (CWT) vs. LTL

Within freight movement, 2 popular approaches exist for companies transporting packaged goods weighing under full truckload capacities:

1. LTL Shipping

2. CWT Rate-Based Shipping

We analyse considerations between each model:

1. LTL shipping

– Used when the entire truckload is routed to a single destination warehouse 

– Goods require sorting, listing, and loading onto pallets before dispatch

– Works for large or irregularly shaped deliveries 

2. CWT rate-based shipping

– No palletisation necessary; goods shipped as individually packaged units

– Preferred when materials get routed to multiple destinations

– Suits frequent shippers executing small orders 

Depending factors influence the choice between the above models:

– Delivery routes and destinations

– Shipment sizes, dimensions, and packaging   

So, workflows reliant on multi-node distribution of piecemeal parcels typically leverage CWT-based pricing due to its flexibility for managing less-than-truckload dispatches.

Key Takeaways

  • A hundredweight (CWT) is a standard weight unit used in certain Indian commodities markets. It also may be used to price smaller shipments of goods.
  • In the US, a hundredweight is 100 pounds; in the UK, it is 112 pounds. These may be referred to as a “short” or a “long” hundredweight, respectively.
  • The hundredweight was introduced to standardise the trading of some goods between countries.
  • The use of hundredweight has declined in favour of kilograms, except in some Indian agriculture sectors.
  • Examples of products measured by the hundredweight in India include steel, cattle, oil, seeds, and grains.


As traditional Imperial/English trade norms concede ground to metrication, hybrid use cases like the CWT preserve contextual utility – especially across shipping, commodities, and associated vocations. Professionals navigating these spheres by grasping nuances around century-old CWT from its roots to conversion formulas can reliably apply the apparatus mixing into modern workflows.


What’s the difference between pricing goods by the hundredweight versus by piece?

Hundredweight pricing comes from the medieval convention of weighing and trading bulky goods in large batches instead of per piece. So it standardised a batch size rather than tracking individual units. This persists for commodities today.

How is CWT applied in the context of the Indian market? 

In India, commodities contracts combine metric tonnes and hundredweights to denote volumes. The shipping and freight industry uses CWT rates for frequent, small orders across multiple destinations. And sectors like hospitality order wholesale meat in pounds and CWTs.

Is there an advantage to the continued use of hundredweights over standardised metric measurements?

Yes – factors like ingrained legacy systems, ease of capturing weights for heavy goods, suitable pricing scales, and long-term contracts uphold hundredweights’ advantages for specific applications – especially across international trade sectors.

What goods often still rely on hundredweight pricing or measurement?

Hundredweights remain seen in agricultural goods, cattle, metals, building materials, oil, wax, grains, spices, sugar, and other commodities. Shipping containers also reference capacity by a hundredweight and metric tonnage combination.

Is LTL shipping better or CWT shipping for most uses?

It depends on factors like delivery routes, shipment sizes and packaging. LTL suits single destinations and irregular big goods; CWT suits frequent, small orders to multiple locations. So, CWT shipping often works better for flexible logistics to many nodes.

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