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Trade Monitor
January U.S. Ethanol Exports Fall from December’s Record High

March 7, 2018

Trade, Exports


U.S. ethanol exports totaled 88.3 million gallons (mg) in January–roughly half of December’s record high and the lowest volume in four months, 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 third straight month at 40.7 mg. Canada was the second-leading market at 19.9 mg, which was down 14% from December. With nearly 70% of U.S. ethanol exports destined for Brazil and Canada, shipments to the rest of the world shrank significantly from December.


Shipments of undenatured fuel ethanol in January fell by 46% to 47.9 mg. Brazil decreased its draw of undenatured fuel product by 16% to 40.7 mg, representing 85% of total U.S. undenatured exports. The Philippines (1.7 mg), Colombia (1.3 mg), Singapore (1.3 mg), Switzerland (1.3 mg), and South Korea (1.0 mg) were other top markets. India and Mexico were noticeably absent from the undenatured fuel ethanol export market in January.


 U.S. exports of denatured fuel ethanol dropped 63% in January to 30.3 mg. Canada alone imported nearly two-thirds of American product (19.0 mg). Other customers included Peru (2.8 mg), India (2.7 mg), the Netherlands (2.3 mg), Oman (1.7 mg), Jamaica (0.9 mg), and Colombia (0.9 mg).


Overseas sales of undenatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes increased to 4.9 mg – a new monthly high (since the beginning of the dataset in Feb. 2012). South Korea pulled in 2.4 mg of this product in January, representing roughly half of the total. Saudi Arabia took another 46% of the total (2.3 mg). January exports of U.S. denatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes jumped nearly five-fold to 5.1 mg, primarily shipped to Nigeria (4.1 mg, or 79%) and Canada (0.9 mg, or 18%).


January was absent of any measurable fuel ethanol imports for the second time in the last nine months. Imports have averaged less than 6 mg per month over the past four years.


Exports of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry mill ethanol plants—contracted 7% in January to 898,940 metric tons (mt). Mexico remained the top customer as one-fifth of total exports (181,376 mt, down 10%) headed south of the border. Thailand increased its imports of U.S. DDGS by 1% to 85,774 mt–enough to secure second place in January. Meanwhile, Turkey increased its imports of U.S. DDGS by 19% to 77,520 mt. Exports to South Korea dropped 43% to 72,823 mt (the smallest volume in five months), and Indonesia imported 13% less U.S. product at 63,920 mt. Notably, Vietnam fell 37% to 58,232 mt and thereby exited the top five markets following a quarter of strong export demand.


As a reminder, you can review RFA’s new statistical summaries for 2017 U.S. ethanol and distillers grains trade here and here.


Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a Research Analyst at RFA.