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Trade Monitor
U.S. Ethanol Exports Slide in May; DDGS Shipments Remain Robust

July 6, 2018

Trade, Exports


U.S. ethanol exports totaled 91.9 million gallons (mg) in May—a four-month low, according to government data released this morning and analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). This represents a 43% drop from April and less than half of the record volumes in February (218.7 mg) and March (215.1 mg). Canada broke Brazil’s five-month streak as the largest export market with 31.9 mg (35% of total exports), a 15.3% increase over April.


With Brazil and China markets restricted by trade barriers, U.S. exporters ramped up shipments to other existing customers. Ethanol exports to Peru increased 145% to a record 12.7 mg (14% of total exports), shipments to the Philippines nearly doubled from April to 9.5 mg (10% of total), and South Korea saw a 10% boost to 8.4 mg (9% of total). Meanwhile, exports to Brazil withered to 9.5 mg (10% of exports), an 84% drop from April. These five countries accounted for more than three-fourths of all U.S. ethanol exports in May. Year-to-date exports stand at 776.2 mg, implying a record annualized total of 1.86 billion gallons.


Shipments of U.S. undenatured fuel ethanol in May tightened to 31.1 mg, receding 72% from the prior month. The Philippines was the top destination for undenatured ethanol at 9.5 mg, while Brazil undenatured imports were 85% lower at 9.4 mg. Peru (6.1 mg) and Mexico (3.4 mg) perked up with a 158% and 142% greater intake, respectively, over April levels. Meanwhile, Oman, India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Jamaica stepped out of the undenatured fuel ethanol marketplace after an active April.


Exports of U.S. denatured fuel ethanol brightened in May with a 10% overall increase to 50.7 mg. Top customer Canada (28.6 mg) has experienced four months of solid growth—in fact, 50% more denatured ethanol crossed the northern border in May compared to the January volume. U.S. denatured fuel ethanol shipments to Peru increased by 134% to 6.6 mg and exports were up 75% to South Korea. India re-entered the market with 5.3 mg, and Colombia increased its imports by 11% to 4.4 mg.


Sales of denatured (6.0 mg) and undenatured (4.1 mg) ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes collectively grew 218% to the second-largest monthly volume on record. Exports of denatured non-fuel product were primarily divided between Canada (3.2 mg, up 79%) and Nigeria (2.7 mg). The top five importers of undenatured non-fuel product in May were absent from the marketplace the prior month: South Korea (1.6 mg), the UAE (0.7 mg), Colombia (0.7 mg), Saudi Arabia (0.5 mg), and Sweden (0.5 mg).


There were no U.S. imports on record in May. Only 1.6 mg of Brazilian ethanol has been imported thus far in 2018, according to the monthly data.


May U.S. exports of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry mill ethanol plants—held steady at 994,006 metric tons (mt), easing just 0.4% from April volumes. However, market dynamics changed as U.S. shippers sent 148,682 mt of DDGS to Turkey (15% of the total market). Turkey’s 80% increase over April represented the country’s largest imports in 10 months—sufficient to overtake Mexico as the top export customer after a 13-month stretch. U.S. shippers reduced DDGS sales to Mexico by 20% (146,375 mt, 15% of the market) in May. Other large markets were South Korea (124,657 mt, up 29%), Vietnam (89,329 mt, down 24%), Thailand (75,490 mt, down 15%), and Ireland (39,826, up 180%). Year-to-date exports stand at 4.6 million mt, implying an annualized total of 11.1 million mt—on par with last year.


Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a Research Analyst at RFA.