One finds the practice in ancient Babylon/Mesopotamia 4,000 years ago. In Greece, the cults of Apollo, Demeter, and Rhea-Cybele often controlled the shipment of grain and other food stuffs, through the temples. In Imperial Rome, the control of grain became the basis of the empire.
Rome was the center. Conquered outlying colonies in Gaul, Brittany, Spain, Sicily, Egypt, North Africa, and the Mediterranean littoral had to ship grain to the noble Roman families, as taxes and tribute. Often the grain tax was greater than the land could bear, and areas of North Africa, for instance, were turned into dust bowls.
The evil city-state of Venice took over grain routes, particularly after the Fourth Crusade (1202-04). The main Venetian thirteenth century trading routes had their eastern termini in Constantinople, the ports of the Oltremare (which were the lands of the crusading States), and Alexandria, Egypt.