U.S. ethanol shipments in January rocketed to 86.2 million gallons (mg), marking the highest monthly export volume since December 2011, according to government data released last week. Exports were up a third from December 2013, while imports remained sparse, meaning the United States was a net ethanol exporter by the widest margin in over two years.
Brazil kicked off its sugarcane “inter-harvest” season by importing 23.9 mg of U.S. ethanol, the largest monthly volume to Brazil since January 2012. Canada lost its lead as top U.S. ethanol importer with a 36% drop in imports over December, receiving 18.8 mg. The United Arab Emirates (12.4 mg), India (10.7 mg), the Philippines (5.5 mg), and Mexico (3.3 mg) were other top destinations. Recent market entrants Nigeria and Tunisia continued to import noticeable volumes.
Of total export shipments in January, 58% were classified as undenatured for fuel use, 37% were denatured for fuel use, and 5% were denatured and undenatured for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes. Monthly exports of undenatured ethanol for fuel use hit an historic high, with Brazil taking nearly half of shipments. Similarly, exports of undenatured for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes set an all-time monthly record, with Nigeria responsible for 89% of purchases in January.
U.S. fuel ethanol imports were a modest 4.7 mg, a 4% increase over December. Brazil accounted for just over half of imports (undenatured fuel ethanol) with Spain (47%) and the Netherlands (1%) responsible for the remaining shipments (denatured fuel ethanol).
Exports of distillers dried grains (DDGs) – the animal feed co-product manufactured by dry mill ethanol plants – retreated for the second month in a row in January, down 9% to 903,827 metric tons (mt). China was again the leading destination with an offtake of 344,147 mt. However, China’s market share scaled back to 38%, in contrast with its majority stake (56%) of U.S. DDGs exports averaged over the second half of 2013. Mexico (140,664 mt), South Korea (77,977 mt), Vietnam (48,514 mt), and Japan (44,505 mt) rounded out the top five markets in January.