Media & News

Trade Monitor
March Sees Lower U.S. Ethanol Exports but Global Sales of U.S. DDGS Firm

May 7, 2020

Trade, Exports


May 5, 2020 — U.S. ethanol exports contracted in March to 139.9 million gallons (mg), down 28% following a rally in February. However, March sales were consistent with year-ago volumes. Our top three customers trimmed purchases across the board, accounting for 90% of the differential in month-on-month exported volumes. Shipments to Brazil (37.2 mg, -34%), Canada (27.5 mg, -7%), and India (19.6 mg, -59% from the Feb. record high) represented 60% of total U.S. global sales in March. An annualized export pace of 1.94 billion gallons would be implied by prorating first quarter sales, but seasonal factors and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely result in 2020 exports being well below this level.


March shipments of U.S. undenatured fuel ethanol tamped down by 41% to 59.8 mg. Brazil cut imported volumes by a third to 37.2 mg. Nigeria (5.5 mg), the Philippines (4.6 mg, -33%), and the Netherlands (3.8 mg, -65%) were other larger markets for U.S. product.


Exports of U.S. denatured fuel ethanol in March relaxed by 17% to 65.9 mg. Shipments to chief customer Canada (accounting for 40% of exported product) declined by 8% to 26.1 mg. India cut its purchases by 44% to 15.8 mg following record imports in February. Those declines were countered by upticks in South Korea (9.1 mg, up 5%) and Colombia (8.7 mg, up 46%).


Exports of U.S. ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes grew 11% to a twelve-month high of 14.2 mg thanks to the confluence of imports by several fluctuating market participants. India (3.8 mg denatured), Nigeria (2.9 mg undenatured), and Saudi Arabia (2.3 mg undenatured) were our larger customers.


The U.S. imported 13.5 mg of cane ethanol from Brazil in March, down 40%. On an annualized basis, the pace during the first quarter of the year would equate to 144.2 mg.


U.S. exports of dried distillers grains (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry-mill ethanol plants—expanded in March by 5% to 899,730 metric tons (mt). Mexico again secured its position as our top DDGS export market as sales perked up by 15% (190,125 mt, equivalent to roughly one-fifth of global DDGS sales). U.S. shippers doubled efforts to Vietnam with 139,674 mt in DDGS exports, up 114% and a 16-month high. DDGS sales in South Korea (127,636 mt) and Indonesia (104,261 mt) were robust though marginally unchanged from February. These four markets were responsible for 62% of global U.S. DDGS shipments, with the remainder parsed out among another 33 countries. Notably, Japan (28,776 mt, -54%), Thailand (26,551 mt, -56%), and the Philippines (17,513 mt, -30%) saw sizeable declines in demand. Worldwide Q1 2020 U.S. DDGS sales imply an annualized export volume of 10.92 million mt.



Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a Research Analyst at RFA.