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07-08-2012 06:11:00

INTERVIEW: ASX Mulls Revised Grain Contracts To Boost Trading Volume - Executive

By Caroline Henshaw

SYDNEY--ASX Ltd. (ASX.AU), Australia's dominant exchange, is looking to rejig its grain futures contracts in a bid to capture business from the country's growing role as Asia's breadbasket, a senior executive at the exchange said Tuesday.

Dougal Hunter, ASX's manager of agricultural derivatives, said he hopes to replicate the surge in trading on Europe's main grain trading exchange since 2010 by allowing contracts to include grain delivered from different Australian ports that has been harvested in different seasons.

Consistently high grain prices since 2008 have grabbed the attention of bourses worldwide, with many of them trying to provide a wider platform to profit-hungry investors and improve their own bottom line in the bargain.

Earlier this year, the InterContinental Exchange launched its grains futures contracts. The CME Group was quick to respond by extending the trading hours for CBOT contracts of several agricultural commodities. CME also launched its Black Sea region wheat contract in June.

The potential for grains trade on bourses is huge as illustrated by average daily volumes of wheat traded on Paris-based NYSE Liffe - owned by NYSE Euronext (NYX) - which including both futures and options have risen to 27,185 lots in 2011 from just 6,992 lots in 2008.

"Being able to replicate the success story in Europe would be a fantastic achievement," said Mr. Hunter in an interview. "It demonstrates it's possible to establish an exchange outside the traditional home of North America. The industry would only benefit from a more liquid futures market here."

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group which now includes the Chicago Board of Trade has been a grain trading hub for centuries and has historically been considered the global benchmark for the industry.

But rising food demand from the growing middle classes of Asia and the Middle East have seen Australia and Black Sea producers take larger slices of the international grain trade, and prompted investors to seek new ways to profit from trading in different places.

In Australia, where wheat exports reached near record levels in the last fiscal year ended June 30, major exporters such as commodity giant Cargill Inc. say the local futures market is too underdeveloped to provide an effective hedging mechanism for the country's growing exports.

ASX's main New South Wales wheat contracts trades up to 1,200 contracts a day, less than a fifth of Liffe's daily average between January and May this year.

Mr. Hunter said ASX has been consulting buyers in Australia's main export markets in Asia, as well as traders and farmers in the domestic market, to ensure the modifications attract a larger investor base.

The changes, including allowing NSW wheat to be delivered from the states of Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, modifying the protein content specifications for the contracts and allowing wheat from different seasons to be delivered against the same contract would help this, he said.

The exchange is also evaluating the potential for Western Australia-based feed barley and canola contracts in response to rising Australian exports.

"Ultimately what we would like to see is a market in Australia that provides effective risk management for everyone in the supply chain," said Mr. Hunter.

Write to Caroline Henshaw at caroline.henshaw@wsj.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 07, 2012 00:11 ET (04:11 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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