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Massive penalty awaits guar traders

FMC to penalise clients and brokers for violating clubbing guidelines and manipulating prices, relisting delayed

Dilip Kumar Jha  |  Mumbai 

In order to avoid the repeat of guar-like saga in other agri-commodities, the Forward Commission (FMC) is planning to impose a heavy penalty on a number of traders for violating clubbing guidelines and artificially manipulating prices.

The commodity derivatives market regulator has called for bank account statement of leading guar traders since its price started overshooting. Currently, the Commission is analysing the statements provided by traders.

“We have discovered a violation of clubbing guidelines, prima facie, in our initial investigation. On aggregating traders’ position, we found that they booked guar in various names beyond the permissible limit. Hence, we are just working on the quantum of penalty to be imposed on them which may run into crores,” said a senior FMC official.

An FMC investigation in May 2012 revealed 4,490 entities were involved in guar price manipulation, who benefited by around Rs 1,291 crore.

Though, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has not taken any concrete measures yet on the violators of FMC guidelines, the Commission continued its departmental investigations.

Earlier in March last year, a report from the industry body Assocham said that guar gum and guar seed prices jumped almost 70% between January – March 2012, despite several measures such as high margins, lower position limits, suspension of traders, etc taken by the regulator.

The prices of these commodities have risen ten-fold in the past year on low stocks. The normal price of guar bean in the season is Rs 10 a kg, while guar seed is traded at around Rs 150 a kg and guar gum at Rs 500 a kg.

The FMC had suspended futures trading in both guar seed and gum until September 2012 earlier, which was then extended indefinitely. The FMC in its circular warned commodity exchanges not to launch new contracts without its permission.

Meanwhile, Assocham cautioned the government for re-listing guar gum and guar seeds in the future market till the Forward Contract Regulation Amendment (FCRA) Bill to accord adequate powers to FMC with a view to regulate the market and penalise any insider trading, cartelisation and price manipulations.

It said that in year 2010-11, there was bumper crop of 15.45 lakh tonne and the price during the year ranged within Rs 2,000 - Rs 3,800 a quintal. During the year 2011-12, guar crop size was estimated at 12 lakh tonne and the guar price gone up from Rs 4,000 in October 2011 to Rs 29,000 a quintal in March 2012, an increase of 625%.

There is said to be export led increase in demand. However, such an abnormal price rise is not easily attributed to increase in export demand only. There is a possibility of price manipulation and insider trading as prices rose despite lack of corresponding trading volumes and negligible open interest in the market.

The future market price rise (returns) in 2011-12 is all most 10 times higher than last year and is the steepest rise in any agri commodity in the history of Indian future exchanges.

The future price change volatility (return volatility) in 2011-12 has gone up by almost 80% compared to 2010-11 figures. Guar future prices ranged between Rs 2,743 and Rs 29,900 a quintal. During 2011-12, the maximum price was 889 per cent higher than the maximum price 2010-11.

Now, despite 40-member Advisory Committee headed by the FMC chairman Ramesh Abhishek recommending the re-introduction guar contract on exchange platforms, the regulator seems in no hurry. The Commission is waiting to set up a sub-Committee which can analyse the need of its re-launch and recommend to the Advisory Committee for its assessment.

Consequently, traders’ may miss guar from exchange platform this season.

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First Published: Mon, January 07 2013. 10:46 IST