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Trade Monitor
February U.S. Ethanol Exports Surge to Two-Year High while Global Sales of U.S. DDGS Subside

April 2, 2020

Trade, Exports


April 2, 2020 — U.S. ethanol exports intensified in February, continuing the upward trajectory kicked off in December. Global sales surged 28% higher to 194.2 million gallons (mg)—up 71% from year ago volumes for the highest monthly volume in two years. Robust sales in Brazil (56.1 mg), India (47.6 mg—a record high), and Canada (29.4 mg) did much of the heavy lifting with 7 of every 10 gallons landing in those countries in February. Elevated ethanol sales for the first two months of the year implied an annualized export pace of 2.07 billion gallons.


 Shipments of U.S. undenatured fuel ethanol increased 7% in February to 102.2 mg (the largest volume since April 2018) despite declining volumes among our largest customers. Brazil purchased 56.1 mg—or 55% of global sales—a 4% decline from January, while the Netherlands imported 11.0 mg (-15%) and India imported 9.6 mg (-18%). Other larger markets saw boosted volumes, to include the United Kingdom (8.9 mg, nearly triple January sales), the Philippines (6.9 mg, +10%), and Jamaica (5.0 mg).


Exports of U.S. denatured fuel ethanol bounced back after declining to a three-month low in January. Shipments increased north of the border, with Canadian imports up 21% to 28.4 mg. India imported a record 28.1 mg (up from 1.6 mg), while South Korea (8.7 mg), Colombia (6.0 mg), Peru (4.2 mg), and Mexico (3.8 mg) accounted for the residual exported gallons.


Exports of U.S. ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes jumped 72% to an eleven-month high of 12.8 mg thanks to India’s purchase of 10.0 mg of denatured product. Canada and South Korea were our other larger customers.

The U.S. imported 22.5 mg of cane ethanol from Brazil after taking a month off. On an annualized basis, the pace during the first two months of the year would equate to 135.2 mg.


U.S. exports of dried distillers grains (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry-mill ethanol plants—declined in February by 13% to 852,904 metric tons (mt). However, while sales slipped below recent averages, DDGS exports were 24% higher than year ago shipments. Mexico again retained its position as our top DDGS export market (accounting for 19% of global sales) despite a marginal decrease (165,609 mt, -2%). Asian markets were appreciably important as five of our top six customers—responsible for half of all U.S. DDGS exports—were located in the East: South Korea (127,776 mt, -1%), Indonesia (102,117 mt, -12%), Vietnam (65,419 mt, +18%), Japan (62,695 mt, +18%), and Thailand (60,239 mt, -17%). Sales for the first two months of 2020 imply an annualized export volume of 10.98 million mt.



Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a Research Analyst at RFA.