The accountancy implications of commodity derivatives in the agricultural sector
Middelberg, Susanna Levina
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Food security is a global topic of discussion and agricultural sectors play a vital role in the provision thereof. In South Africa the agribusinesses are some of the key players in providing financing, risk management and market advisory services to producers. Since the deregulation of the grain industry during 1996, many of these agribusinesses have converted their business form from cooperative to company and therefore adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). These agribusinesses trade commodity derivatives on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) to hedge themselves and their producers against commodity price risk. Globally there has been a tremendous increase in the use of derivatives and other financial instruments and with the emergence of these new and more complex financial instruments, accounting regulations had to follow these developments. The applicable accounting practices at the time were considered as being insufficient and being applied inconsistently. The major global standard setters namely IASB and FASB separately tried to develop adequate standards to address the accounting treatment of these products. The IASB developed International Accounting Standard (IAS) 39 dealing with the recognition and measurement of financial instruments, while the FASB issued Financial Accounting Standard (FAS) 133. These two standard setters have signed the Norwalk Agreement committing to plans to converge the IFRS and US accounting standards. This study focused on the application of IAS 39, with reference to commodity derivatives, with the main research objective being to investigate the accountancy implications of commodity derivatives in the South African agricultural sector. Furthermore it also serves to establish a standard methodology for the interpretation of IAS 39 and to serve as a benchmark and best practise for South African agribusinesses and commodity processors. For this purpose seven case studies were investigated by utilising a developed questionnaire, an illustrative flow diagram of IAS 39 and recorded structured interviews with the respondents. The accounting treatment of commodity derivatives was investigated by utilising nine transaction types which are typically found when producers sell grain to an agribusiness or a processor purchases grain from an agribusiness. The seven case studies were identified by utilising convenience sampling (unrestricted non–probability sampling). A literature review and empirical study were conducted. The findings on the accounting treatment of commodity derivatives were communicated thematically. The main findings were discussed during interviews with representatives of the technical departments of three of the Big Four audit firms in South Africa. A discussion of similar studies performed globally was performed. The recommendations following from this research study include that entities carrying “own use” inventory and applying hedge accounting can elect to apply the base adjustment consistently as part of their accounting policy on the valuation of inventory. Entities holding grain inventory for trading purposes should, based on industry practice, fair value such inventory. Various recommendations regarding the classification of a supply contract with a producer (as defined in a pre–season fixed price contract) depending on whether an entity applies hedge accounting or not, were made. Recommendations regarding the determination of fair value include that, based on industry practice and guidance by IAS 39, the SAFEX–based price should be utilised to fair value derivatives and to fair value inventory held by commodity–broker traders. The fair value movement on the option contracts taken out on behalf of the producer by an agribusiness should be transferred to the relevant producer's loan account. The recommendations concluded with a recommendation that entities should proactively consider and plan the impact of the replacement of IAS 39 on current business practices. Areas for further research could include investigating the accounting treatment of commodity derivatives of the newly issued accounting standards on financial instruments by IASB and the impact of these new standards on the business practices of entities.