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RFA Report: Distillers Grains Exports Dip to Four-Year Low in 2017 on China Trade Barrier

February 22, 2018


WASHINGTON — U.S. exports of distillers grains (DG)—a high protein co-product of dry mill ethanol production used to feed livestock and poultry—totaled 11.08 million metric tons (MMT) in 2017, according to a summary of 2017 ethanol co-product trade data published today by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). An estimated 29 percent of U.S. DG production was exported in 2017, meaning nearly one-third of all production was exported to 50 countries on five continents last year. Mexico was the leading destination for U.S. DG, representing 20 percent, followed by Turkey (13 percent), South Korea (9 percent), Thailand and Indonesia (each at 7 percent) and Canada (6 percent). Compared to 2016, Indonesia and Turkey saw the most growth in U.S. DG exports, increasing by 104 percent and 79 percent, respectively. However, U.S. DG exports to China plunged 84 percent compared to 2016, as the country imposed punitive anti-dumping and countervailing duties against U.S. product. "After serving as the top destination for U.S. DG exports five years in a row, China fell to eighth place in 2017," the summary noted. "Just 3% of U.S. DG exports went to China in 2017, after the country accounted for 51% of the record exports experienced in 2015." China's duties against U.S. product also played a significant role in the overall reduction of U.S. DG exports, down 2 percent from 2016 and the lowest in four years. "As this summary highlights, distillers grains and other co-products are a vitally important part of the global feed market and a growing number of countries and regions are relying on U.S. DG exports, including Mexico and the Middle East," said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. "However, China's protectionist actions are hampering overall U.S. DG exports and preventing the country's livestock and poultry feeders from accessing an economical source of nutrition. We will continue to work with U.S. government officials and industry partners to address this barrier and ensure free and fair trade between our two countries." Among other facts from the RFA report:

  • U.S. DG exports had a total aggregate value of $1.86 billion in 2017, down 14 percent from 2016 and the lowest in seven years;
  • The U.S. imported 290,000 MT of DG in 2017, equivalent to just 2.6 percent of DG exports and just 1 percent of domestic DG consumption. Canada was again the top supplier of U.S. DG imports, shipping 267,000 MT to the U.S., with Brazil and China the only other two DG exporters to the U.S. in 2017;
  • U.S. exports of corn gluten meal—a feed co-product made by ethanol wet mills—totaled 822,000 MT in 2017. Indonesia, Chile and Egypt were top destinations; and
  • U.S. exports of corn gluten feed—a feed co-product from ethanol wet mills—hit 1.18 MMT in 2017. That was up slightly from 2016 and marked a six-year high. Ireland, Turkey, and Israel combined to receive 73 percent of total U.S. corn gluten feed exports.
This report is a companion to RFA's 2017 ethanol trade summary, published earlier this month. View RFA's co-product trade summary here.