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Trade Monitor
January U.S. Ethanol Exports Strong, Distillers Grains Exports Subside

March 27, 2019

Trade, Exports


U.S. ethanol exports totaled 127.9 million gallons (mg) in January, according to government data released this morning and analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). This reflects an 8.5% decline from December and the lowest monthly volume in four months, but it represented an increase from the 88.3 mg shipped in January 2018.

Brazil remained the top U.S. customer for the second straight month at 38.5 mg, buying 3% more than in December and capturing 30% of global sales. India’s purchase of U.S. ethanol more than doubled (108%) in January at 20.0 mg. Canada sharply reduced its U.S. imports at 19.97 mg (-29%), its smallest purchase in a year. Exports to South Korea ticked up to 13.5 mg, while Colombia expanded to a record 9.5 mg. These five countries accounted for roughly 80% of January exports of U.S. ethanol.


January exports of U.S. undenatured fuel ethanol thinned by 10.1% to 69.6 mg. Over half the shipments (38.5 mg) were destined for Brazil, a slight increase over December volumes. India increased its offtake by 22% to 9.3 mg, and South Korea purchased 7.4 mg, a 22-month high. Other markets for undenatured fuel product included Mexico (4.0 mg), the Netherlands (2.2 mg), Norway (2.1 mg), and the Philippines (2.1 mg).


American producers exported 53.5 mg of denatured fuel ethanol in January, 4.7% under prior month sales. U.S. shipments to Canada weakened by 28% to 18.9 mg. Exports to India intensified to 10.7 mg following an absence of activity in December, effectively nabbing its second-highest monthly offtake. Colombia also stepped up with record U.S. imports of 7.6 mg, up 165%. South Korea (5.7 mg, down 55%) and the Philippines (4.5 mg) were other significant destinations.


The global market for U.S. ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes lost traction in January with 22% lower sales at 4.8 mg—the majority (89%) was undenatured. Japan (1.8 mg), Canada (1.0 mg), Colombia (0.8 mg), and Saudi Arabia (0.7 mg) were significant destinations.


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


January exports of U.S. dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry mill ethanol plants—slid 9.4%. Sales of 806,615 metric tons (mt) of DDGS were the smallest monthly volume to ship since Aug. 2017. Notably, Thailand cut its purchases significantly in January to just 34,969 mt (down 64%) for the lowest U.S. DDGS imports since Sept. 2015. However, exports to Mexico recovered from a December slump as 50% more animal feed crossed the border; a record 199,312 mt of DDGS purchased by our top customer was equivalent to a quarter of global sales in January. The UK & Ireland (101,370 mt, up 13%), Indonesia (90,291 mt, down 12%), South Korea (89,364 mt, up 13%), and Vietnam (89,356 mt, down 21%) were key markets with the remaining 30% of exports dispersed among 30 additional countries.



Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a Research Analyst at RFA.