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What is “Commodity”?
A. Commodity includes all kinds of goods. The Forward Contracts Regulation Act, 1952 (FCRA) defines “goods” as “every kind of movable property other than actionable claims, money and securities”. Further trading is organized in such goods or commodities as are permitted by the Central Government. At present, all goods and products of agricultural (including plantation), mineral and fossil origin are allowed for futures trading under the auspices of the commodity exchange recognized under the FCRA. The national commodity exchanges have been recognized by the Central Government for organizing trading in all permissible commodities which include precious (gold & silver) and non-ferrous metals; cereals and pulses; ginned and un-ginned cotton; oilseeds, oils and oilcakes; raw jute and jute goods; sugar and gur; potatoes and onions; coffee and tea; rubber and spices, etc.
What is “Commodity Exchange?
A. A commodity exchange is an association, or a company or any other body corporate organizing futures trading in commodities.
What are the salient features of a “Commodity Futures Contract”?
A. A commodity futures contract is a tradable standardized contract, the terms of which are set in advance by the commodity exchange organizing trading in it. The futures contract is for a specified variety of a commodity, known as the “basis” though quite a few other similar varieties, both inferior and superior, are allowed to be deliverable or tender able for delivery against the specified futures contract.

The quality parameters of the “basis” and the permissible tender able varieties; the delivery months and schedules; the places of delivery, the “on” and ”off” allowances for the quality differences and the transport costs; the transport costs; the tradable lots; the modes of price quotes; the procedures for regular periodical (mostly daily) clearings; the payment of prescribed clearing and margin monies; the transaction, clearing and other fees; the arbitration, survey and other dispute redressing methods; the manner of settlement of outstanding transactions after the last trading day, the penalties for non-issuance or non-acceptance of deliveries, etc. are all predetermined by the rules and regulations of the commodity exchange.

Consequently, the parties to the contract are required to negotiate only the quantity to be bought and sold and the price. Everything else is prescribed by the Exchange. Because of the standardized nature of the futures contract, it can be traded with ease at a moment’s notice.
What are the main differences between the physical and futures markets?
The physical markets for commodities deal in either cash or spot contract for ready delivery and payment within 11 days, or forward (not futures) contracts for delivery of goods and/or payment of price after 11 days. These contracts are essentially party to party contracts, and are fulfilled by the seller giving delivery of goods of a specified variety of a commodity as agreed to between the parties. Rarely are these contracts for the actual or physical delivery allowed to be settled otherwise than by issuing or giving deliveries. Such situations may arise when unforeseen and uncontrolled circumstances prevent the buyers and sellers from receiving or taking deliveries. The contracts may then be settled mutually.

Unlike the physical markets, futures markets trade in futures contracts which are primarily used for risk management (hedging) on commodity stocks or forward (physical market), purchases and sales. Futures contacts are mostly offset before their maturity and, therefore, scarcely end in deliveries. Speculators also use these futures contracts to benefit to benefit from changes in prices and are hardly interested in either taking or receiving deliveries of goods.
How does a Commodity Futures Exchange help in Price Discovery & Price Risk Management?
Unlike the physical market, a futures market facilitates offsetting the trades without exchanging physical goods until the expiry of a contract. As a result, futures market attracts hedgers for risk management and encourages considerable external competition from those who possess market information and price judgment to trade as traders in these commodities. While hedgers have long-term perspective of the market, the traders or arbitragers, prefer an immediate view of the market. However, all these users participate in buying and selling of commodities based on various domestic and global parameters such as price, demand and supply, climatic and market related information. These factors, together, result in efficient price discovery, allowing large number of buyers and sellers to trade on the exchange.

Price Risk Management: Hedging is the practice of off-setting the price risk inherent in any cash market position by taking an equal but opposite position in the futures market. This technique is very useful in case of any long-term requirements for which the prices have to be firmed to quote a sale price but to avoid buying the physical commodity immediately to prevent blocking of funds and incurring large holding costs.
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