Commodity Derivatives Market in India: Development,
Regulation and Future Prospects
The Indian economy is witnessing a mini revolution in commodity derivatives and risk management. Commodity options trading and cash settlement of commodity futures had been banned since 1952 and until 2002 commodity derivatives market was virtually nonexistent, except some negligible activity on an OTC basis. Now in September 2005, the country has 3 national level electronic exchanges and 21 regional exchanges for trading commodity derivatives. As many as eighty (80) commodities have been allowed for derivatives trading. The value of trading has been booming and is likely to cross the $ 1 Trillion mark in 2006 and, if all goes well, seems to be set to touch $5 Trillion in a few years. Chequred History
The history of organized commodity derivatives in India goes back to the nineteenth century when the Cotton Trade Association started futures trading in 1875, barely about a decade after the commodity derivatives started in Chicago. Over time the derivatives market developed in several other commodities in India. Following cotton, derivatives trading started in oilseeds in Bombay (1900), raw jute and jute goods in Calcutta (1912), wheat in Hapur (1913) and in Bullion in Bombay (1920). However, many feared that derivatives fuelled unnecessary speculation in essential commodities, and were detrimental to the healthy functioning of the markets for the underlying commodities, and hence to the farmers. With a view to restricting speculative activity in cotton market, the Government of Bombay prohibited options business in 1939. Later in 1943, forward trading was prohibited in oilseeds and some other commodities including food-grains, spices, vegetable oils, sugar and cloth. After Independence, the Parliament passed Forward Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1952 which regulated forward contracts in commodities all over India. The Act applies to goods, which are defined as any movable property other than security, currency and actionable claims. The Act prohibited options trading in goods along with cash settlements of forward trades, rendering a crushing blow to the commodity derivatives market. Under the Act, only those associations/exchanges, which are granted recognition by the Government, are allowed to organize forward trading in regulated commodities. The Act envisages three-tier regulation: (i) The Exchange which organizes forward trading in commodities can regulate trading on a day-to-day basis; (ii) the Forward Markets Commission provides regulatory oversight under the powers delegated to it by the central Government, and (iii) the Central Government - Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution - is the ultimate regulatory authority. The already shaken commodity derivatives market got a crushing blow when in 1960s, following several years of severe draughts that forced many farmers to default on forward contracts (and even caused some suicides), forward trading was banned in many commodities considered primary or essential. As a result, commodities derivative markets dismantled and went underground where to some extent they continued as OTC contracts at negligible volumes. Much later, in 1970s and 1980s the Government relaxed forward trading rules for some commodities, but the market could never regain the lost volumes. Change in Government Policy
After the Indian economy embarked upon the process of liberalization and globalisation in 1990, the Government set up a Committee in 1993 to examine the role of futures trading. The Committee (headed by Prof. K.N. Kabra) recommended allowing futures trading in 17 commodity groups. It also recommended strengthening of the Forward Markets Commission, and certain amendments to Forward Contracts (Regulation) Act 1952, particularly allowing options trading in goods and registration of brokers with Forward Markets...