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Trade Monitor
February U.S. Ethanol Export Market Softens but Remains Robust; Distillers Grains Exports Dip to 6-Year Low

April 17, 2019

Trade, Exports


U.S. ethanol exports totaled 113.8 million gallons (mg) in February, according to government data released this morning and analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). This reflects an 11.0% decline from January. However, global sales remain healthy as average exports over the past four months are 25% greater than the comparable period a year ago.


Brazil was our top trading partner for the third straight month, purchasing 36.2 mg—nearly a third of all U.S. ethanol shipments, despite a 6% trim from January. Exports to Canada declined by 15% to 17.0 mg, dropping 40% over the span of two months. India also pared its U.S. ethanol imports to 15.0 mg, down 25%. These three markets accounted for two-thirds of all shipments in February. Other significant importers include Oman (9.2 mg), South Korea (8.4 mg), and the Philippines (7.5 mg).


February exports of U.S. undenatured fuel ethanol thinned by 2.4% to 67.9 mg. Over half the shipments (36.2 mg) were destined for Brazil, a 6% decline. India increased its offtake by 4% to 9.7 mg. Sales to the Philippines (7.3 mg), Spain (5.6 mg), and Colombia (3.4 mg) were notably high.


American producers exported 41.1 mg of denatured fuel ethanol in February, 23% under prior month sales. U.S. shipments to Canada declined by 16% to 15.9 mg, which was enough to capture nearly 40% of the U.S. market. Intermittent partner Oman purchased 9.2 mg and Peru scaled up its offtake by 42% at 5.3 mg. India (5.3 mg, -51%) and South Korea (5.1 mg, -10%) were other notable buyers. The Philippines and Jamaica were absent from the U.S. marketplace.


The global market for U.S. ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes remained on par with January volumes at 4.8 mg. Nearly all exports landed in Nigeria (3.5 mg denatured) and Canada.


February was absent of any fuel ethanol imports for the second straight month.


Exports of U.S. dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry mill ethanol plants—slid 15.0% to 686,005 metric tons (mt) in February. This marks the smallest monthly volume of DDGS to ship in six years (since March 2013), with cuts in exported volumes felt across the globe. Shipments to Mexico decreased 19% from record January volumes to 162,032 mt, landing fairly close to recent averages. South Korea (87,077 mt, -3%), Indonesia (75,134 mt, -17%), and Vietnam (73,377 mt, -18%) were other significant markets.



Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a Research Analyst at RFA.