ICE plans new wheat, barley contracts for Oct. 2012 delivery

Winnipeg’s commodity exchange expects to have new contracts listed for milling wheat, durum and barley for October 2012 delivery if the Canadian Wheat Board’s single marketing desk ends next summer as planned.

ICE Futures Canada on Wednesday laid out further plans for the new contracts, which it first proposed in May as the federal government began moving on plans to deregulate Prairie wheat and barley marketing.

“These contracts recognize Canada’s central role in the global agricultural marketplace and they serve an essential role in providing transparent price discovery and risk management tools,” Brad Vannan, ICE’s chief operating officer for Canada, said Wednesday in a release.

“Domestic and international market participants have expressed substantial demand for global benchmark futures contracts designed specifically for Canadian milling wheat, durum wheat and barley. We will continue to work with the industry and regulators as these contracts are developed.”

The new milling wheat, durum wheat and barley contracts are to be modeled on ICE Futures Canada’s canola futures contract, which trades over four million contracts (80 million tonnes) per year.

Each milling wheat and durum wheat contract will be 100 tonnes in size, intended to be as comparable as possible to U.S. wheat futures contracts, which are 5,000 bushels each, or just over 136 tonnes.

The barley contract, like ICE’s canola and current Western barley contracts, will be for 20 tonnes. All the new contracts will be priced in Canadian dollars.

The current Western barley futures contract was last retooled in June 2009 to reflect barley delivered to a buyer’s facility in an area of southern Alberta covering Lethbridge, Brooks and Calgary, as opposed to the previous contract’s delivery area in central Saskatchewan, to “better reflect the underlying market” for feed barley.

The new barley contract, however, will drop the “Western” and will have par delivery in eastern Saskatchewan. It will not trade strictly as a malting barley contract, Vannan said in an interview Thursday, noting maltsters did not feel a contract for malting-grade barley alone would represent an appropriately broad marketplace.

As for the current Western barley contract, Vannan said it may disappear or it may not. “We can run the (new and Western) contracts in parallel with one another,” he said. “Some participants may choose to use the Western barley contract, but if interest remains low, at a point in time we’d delist it.”

“Familiarity”

ICE expects to publish the new contracts’ specifications upon regulatory approval from the Manitoba Securities Commission, to which Vannan said the exchange’s proposals have already been submitted.

The new contracts would be officially launched as soon as Bill C-18, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act tabled Tuesday by federal Ag Minister Gerry Ritz in the House of Commons, gets royal assent.

Vannan wouldn’t say what level of trade it expects to see in its new contracts, but noted the wheat contracts will carry “a lot of benefits” for Prairie farmers and users, including their denomination in Canadian dollars and metric tonnes, in a delivery mechanism well known to the western Canadian grain trade.

“Any farmer who’s marketed his canola will have a good idea what to do to market wheat,” he said Thursday. “There will be a lot of familiarity there… I don’t think farmers will be completely lost or stranded. Farmers are very smart, shrewd individuals.”

Related stories:

ICE planning spring wheat, durum futures contracts, May 20, 2011

Tories’ bill maps out endgame for CWB’s single desk, Oct. 18, 2011

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