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Trade Monitor
U.S. Ethanol Exports Swell in November, as Brazil is Top Destination and China Returns to Market

January 5, 2018

Trade, Exports


U.S. ethanol exports totaled 107.2 million gallons (mg) in November, up 14% from October shipments, according to government data released this morning and analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). Despite the imposition of a tariff rate quota and 20% tariff in September, Brazil was the leading destination for U.S. ethanol exports for the first time in six months, receiving 28.1 mg. November also saw a small volume of denatured ethanol exported to China, which has not imported any U.S. fuel ethanol in the prior 10 months. Canada scaled back its imports of U.S. product to 24.2 mg, a 29% reduction from October. Exports to India perked up at 15.5 mg, a 17% increase, while shipments to the Philippines more than doubled to 9.9 mg. These four countries accounted for nearly three-fourths of all U.S. ethanol shipments in November. Exports to all destinations for the first eleven months of 2017 stood at 1.19 billion gallons, indicating a record annualized export volume of 1.30 billion gallons.


November exports of undenatured fuel ethanol rebounded by 23% to 52.8 mg, a four-month high. Brazil increased purchases by 117% to 28.1 mg, taking over half of U.S. undenatured shipments, while the Philippines imported 6.5 mg, up 41%. Meanwhile India cut its imports in half with 6.4 mg of undenatured fuel ethanol entering the country.


Switzerland (3.2 mg) and Jamaica (2.8 mg) rounded out the top five largest markets for undenatured fuel product.

U.S. exports of denatured fuel ethanol decreased by 10% from October levels to 42.0 mg. Canada again took the lead with 23.3 mg, accounting for 55% of denatured fuel ethanol exports. The remaining denatured shipments were distributed to India (5.0 mg), the Philippines (3.4 mg), Colombia (3.3 mg), South Korea (3.1 mg), China (2.4 mg), and Mexico (1.5 mg).


Overseas sales of undenatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes increased by 41% to 3.2 mg, with Saudi Arabia receiving 2.7 mg, or 86% of the exports. November exports of denatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes jumped a whopping 407% to a 68-month high (running back to March 2012). The U.S. shipped 4.1 mg of denatured non-fuel product to both Nigeria and India, accounting for the bulk of overseas sales.


For the seventh straight month this year, the United States recorded meaningful fuel ethanol import volumes. The 20.7 mg of undenatured ethanol shipped in from Brazil in November is the largest volume to enter the country in 26 months. Monthly imports have only breached 20 mg four times over the past 50 months. Year-to-date fuel ethanol imports totaled 76.5 mg, a 127% increase over the same period last year. Annualized import volumes are estimated at 83.5 mg—roughly the volume imported in 2014.


 Exports of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry mill ethanol plants—contracted 15% in November to a six-month low of 875,302 metric tons (mt), shipped to 35 countries. Mexico cut its purchases from October, although it still remained the lead destination with 144,415 mt in DDGS exports (16% of market share). Export expansion in Vietnam showed signs of slowing with a 2% increase at 103,834 mt (12% of the DDGS exports for the month). Other leading destinations included South Korea (86,983 mt, or 10%), Indonesia (76,200 mt, or 9%), and Thailand (73,917 mt, or 8%). Turkey cut its imports by half to 59,397 mt—its lowest purchase of U.S. DDGS in thirteen months. Total year-to-date DDGS exports to all countries stood at 10.1 mmt through November, indicating an annualized total of 11.03 mmt.


Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a Research Analyst at RFA.