Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Prefeasibility Study of an ASEAN Rice Futures Market

This report presents a prefeasibility study of a rice futures market in the Association of Southeast  Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. Following are the main points of the study:

Economic benefits. The general consensus among potential exchanges (Singapore Mercantile Exchange and Singapore Exchange), existing exchanges (Agricultural Futures Exchange of Thailand and Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange), Thai Rice Exporters Association members, and international trading houses is that an ASEAN-based rice futures contract would provide two important economic benefits to the market: price discovery and price risk management. ASEAN rice markets are currently opaque and a futures contract could help increase market price transparency to aid all market participants in marketing and production decisions. Representatives of the international trading houses who were interviewed confirmed the hedging need for a liquid rice futures contract.

Limitations of futures markets. Futures markets have a limited role in stabilizing prices across multiple years or seasons. In effect, they reflect current and expected future supply and demand conditions, and if those conditions result in higher or more volatile cash prices, futures prices will also be higher and more volatile. In this sense, futures markets are not a panacea for removing all market price volatility.

Necessary cash market characteristics. Past studies have identified several important cash market characteristics needed to promote the success of a futures contract:

(i) Adequate cash price volatility. The regional/international ASEAN rice market is characterized by high levels of price volatility. Prices must be volatile to create hedging needs and attract speculators. On the other hand, government intervention policies, across many countries in the ASEAN region, have been specifically designed to stabilize domestic price levels. Such policies are direct substitutes for a futures contract and, if successful, negate the need for a futures contract. Thus, under this criterion, a regional contract serving the highly volatile international market would have the greatest chance of success.

(ii) A large competitive and well-defined underlying cash market that lends itself to standardization. Neither domestic nor regional/international ASEAN rice markets meet these criteria. The regional and international markets are thinly traded by a few private traders and a significant amount of trade occurs directly between governments. Both exchange and international trading house representatives interviewed expressed concern that the potential hedging pool (users of the contract) was not large enough to create enough liquidity in a contract.

In addition, the market is highly segmented between different rice varieties and there is a lack of international grading standards to measure and standardize variety and quality differences. Both exchange and international trading house representatives

Andrew McKenzie No. 19. March 2012ADB Sustainable Development Working Paper Series Prefeasibility

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