February 5, 2020 — The official numbers are in and they confirm that U.S. ethanol exports netted the second-highest volume on record in 2019. According to government data released today and analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), American shippers rallied at year’s end with ethanol sales surging 37% higher to 146.5 million gallons (mg) in December. While coming in 13% under the 2018 record, ethanol producers still garnered a robust 1.47 billion gallons in exports last year.
In December, nearly all (96%) U.S. ethanol sold outside our borders landed in ten countries, with most experiencing healthy growth. Exports to Canada expanded 18% to 31.7 mg—sufficient to regain its status as our top customer after yielding that title to Brazil in November. Shipments to Brazil grew 14% to 30.8 mg, the largest volume in eight months. India was the third-largest destination at 27.8 mg, scaling up from 3.3 mg in November. Substantial volumes were also exported to South Korea (15.7 mg) and the European Union (14.4 mg).
Shipments of U.S. undenatured fuel ethanol climbed in December, up 29% to 68.2 mg. Eighty percent of exports were destined for Brazil (30.8 mg, +14%), India (12.8 mg, +287%), and the Netherlands (10.9 mg, +137%). Another dozen countries secured the remaining volumes of undenatured exports, including the Philippines (5.1 mg) and the United Kingdom (3.5 mg).
Sales of U.S. denatured fuel ethanol pressed higher in December, lifting 47% to 76.4 mg—the highest monthly total since Oct. 2018, aided by record shipments to India, South Korea, and Mexico. Forty percent of exports crossed the border to Canada (30.6 mg, +21%), with sizeable shipments also landing in India (15.0 mg), South Korea (13.8 mg), Colombia (6.7 mg), Mexico (3.7 mg), and Peru (3.4 mg).
Exports of U.S. ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes declined 24% to 1.9 mg, the lowest volume in two years. Most product shipped to Canada (0.9 mg), South Korea (0.6 mg), and Colombia (0.3 mg).
Imports from Brazil moderated in December as the U.S. purchased 14.0 mg of cane ethanol, scaling back from the 25.5 mg purchased in November. Total U.S. ethanol imports in 2019 increased 162% to 203.6 mg, up from 77.6 mg the prior year. In fact, more foreign ethanol entered our borders in 2019 than the last three years combined, marking the first time to breach 100 mg since 2013.
U.S. exports of dried distillers grains (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry-mill ethanol plants—declined in December by 16% to 767,682 metric tons (mt). Mexico solidly retained its position as our top DDGS export market despite diminished sales (143,330 mt, -29%), capturing nearly one-fifth of the global market in December. Shippers exported 125,303 mt to South Korea, a 19% gain over November and the largest volume in nine months. Indonesia boosted imports by 31% to 95,405 mt, the largest imports in over a year. Significant volumes also landed in Vietnam (80,041 mt, -5%), Japan (80,041 mt, +102%), and Canada (43,991 mt, +6%). Total exports of U.S. DDGS realized in 2019 were 10.79 million mt, landing 9% under 2018.
Watch for today’s release of RFA’s 2019 Exports & Imports Statistical Summaries, which will be posted to our Publications webpage here.