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Trade Monitor
U.S. Ethanol Exports Soften in May while Distillers Grains Exports Build

July 11, 2019

Trade, Exports


U.S. ethanol exports decreased to 99.6 million gallons (mg) in May, according to data issued by the government and analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). This was a 34% decrease from April and the lowest volume since last September.


Canada was the top destination for the first time this year despite a 26% decline in sales at 23.1 mg of ethanol, or just under one-quarter of total May U.S. shipments. India was the second-largest destination at 14.4 mg, a 58% drop from a month earlier. Brazil imported 10.6 mg of U.S. ethanol, dropping 74% after remaining our largest customer for seven consecutive months. Other top importers included the Philippines (9.1 mg, up 20%), South Korea (9.0 mg, up 7%), Colombia (9.0 mg, up 69%), and the United Arab Emirates (7.4 mg). Year-to-date exports stood at 631.5 mg through May—19% lower than the first five months of 2018, implying an annualized export volume of 1.52 billion gallons.


May exports of undenatured fuel ethanol retreated 41% to 48.7 mg as sales to our two largest customers declined by nearly 40 mg. That said, purchases by India (14.4 mg, down 42%) and Brazil (10.6 mg, down 73%) represented half of our global market for undenatured fuel. Other key destinations were the Philippines (7.4 mg, up 179%), Colombia (5.9 mg, up 473%), and South Korea (4.6 mg, up 33%).


U.S. exports of denatured fuel ethanol declined 26% in May to 46.3 mg. This reflects a 27% decrease in sales to our northern neighbor, with shipments to Canada totaling 21.7 mg (47% of global sales). The United Arab Emirates (7.4 mg), South Korea (4.3 mg), United Kingdom (3.6 mg), and Colombia (3.1 mg) were other major markets.


U.S. exports of ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes pared back 14% to 4.7 mg. Shipments of denatured product for non-fuel applications declined from 4.1 mg in April to 341,288 gallons in May—the lowest monthly volume exported since 2011. However, exports of undenatured product were 3 mg higher than April, with 4.3 mg primarily dispersed to Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Canada.


There were no U.S. imports on record in May, according to the monthly data. Only 23.8 mg of foreign ethanol has been imported thus far in 2019, of which 88% was received from Brazil.


U.S. exports of dried distillers grains, the animal feed co-product generated by dry-mill ethanol plants, intensified in May, yielding an 11% increase and the first time in 2019 to breach one million metric tons (mt). Mexico was again the top international customer of American-made distillers grains, increasing 25% over April sales, with shipments of 228,618 mt representing a 27-month high. Turkey imported 116,247 mt following a quiet April, albeit 29% under its March draw. Other key markets were South Korea (109,639 mt, up 2%), Vietnam (91,734 mt, up 3%), and Indonesia (75,134 mt). Our top ten largest customers purchased 85% of all exported U.S. DDGS in May, while another 24 countries accounted for the remaining sales. Year-to-date exports stand at 4.39 million mt, implying an annualized export total of 10.53 million mt.



Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a Research Analyst at RFA.