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New RFA Reports Summarize 2021 Ethanol, Distillers Grains Trade

February 9, 2022

Exports, RFA News, Trade


According to a pair of new statistical reports released today by the Renewable Fuels Association, U.S. exports of ethanol and distillers grains showed resilience in 2021 as the global economy continued to confront the COVID pandemic and supply chain challenges.


The annual reports—now in their eighth year—provide industry advocates, policymakers, news media and the general public with the latest information on the important role U.S. ethanol and distillers grains play on the world stage.


“As these reports show, exports continue to represent a  critically important market opportunity for U.S. ethanol producers,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “Our industry’s export sales—which totaled nearly $6 billion in value—made a substantially positive contribution to the nation’s trade balance in 2021 and boosted farm income in rural communities across the heartland. As nations around the world embrace ethanol as a low-cost solution for improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions, RFA continues to work with our allies to pursue and protect free and fair trade opportunities.” 


The ethanol trade summary report shows that 1.24 billion gallons were exported in 2021, representing 8.3 percent of total U.S. ethanol production. While this is 5 percent lower than 2020, it remains the fifth-largest export volume in history and, at $2.77 billion, the value of those exports was the second-highest on record.


U.S. ethanol was shipped to 88 countries on all six inhabited continents. Canada remained the top export destination, taking in 30 percent of U.S. ethanol exports in 2021, followed by India and South Korea. Overall exports fell mainly as a result of lower shipments to Brazil, which has instituted a punitive tariff on imports from the United States. Exports to that country were 59 percent below 2020 levels, when it ranked as the second-leading market for U.S. ethanol exports. The United States imported only 58 million gallons of ethanol, a five-year low and the second-lowest total in the last 10 years. Accordingly, the U.S. remained a net exporter by a wide margin in 2021.


The second trade summary report released today covers co-product exports, including distillers grains, a high-protein feed ingredient for livestock and poultry. Distillers grains exports  totaled 11.6 million metric tons in 2021, a slight improvement over 2020 and the third-largest annual volume on record. This represents 36 percent of U.S. distillers grains production.


Distillers grains were exported to more than 50 countries. Mexico remained the top destination for U.S. distillers grains, representing 21 percent of total shipments,  followed by Vietnam and South Korea. U.S. distillers grains exports set a record in 2021 with an aggregate value of $3 billion.