Media & News

Trade Monitor
Global Sales of U.S. Ethanol and DDGS Contract in May

July 2, 2020

Trade, Exports


July 2, 2020 — U.S. ethanol exports were 67.5 million gallons (mg) in May, a decline of 31.9 mg, or 32%. This is the smallest monthly volume in four years, with slumping sales to Brazil (1.7 mg—down from 23.8 mg) responsible for the bulk of that dip. Exports to India softened 6% in May, yet sales of 14.9 mg rendered it the top global market for U.S. ethanol. Shipments picked up to Canada as 14.5 mg crossed the border (+34%), although tracking at a volume roughly half of recent norms. Export sales slowed to Mexico (9.0 mg, -35% from a surge in April) and South Korea (4.9 mg, -61%), but lifted to the Netherlands (6.7 mg), United Kingdom (4.2 mg), and Nigeria (3.1 mg). An annualized export pace of 1.57 billion gallons would be implied by prorating year-to-date sales, but seasonal factors and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could result in 2020 exports being below this level.


U.S. undenatured fuel ethanol shipments in May dropped 53% to 29.7 mg. However, exports rallied to India—the destination for half of global sales—with 14.9 mg (+16%) marking its largest volume this year. Sales to Mexico were 25% lower although still robust at 6.7 mg. France (1.6 mg) and South Korea (1.5 mg) were other large markets for U.S. undenatured fuel ethanol.


May U.S. denatured fuel ethanol exports expanded 5% to 28.3 mg. Shipments to chief customer Canada regained some ground that was lost in April, rising 45% to 12.0 mg (accounting for 42% of total exported product). Other larger markets were the Netherlands (5.7 mg), United Kingdom (3.8 mg), South Korea (2.7 mg), and Colombia (2.3 mg). Notably, India was absent from the market after purchasing 48 mg the first four months of the year.


Exports of U.S. ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage purposes climbed 8% to 9.5 mg. Nigeria (3.1 mg), Mexico (2.3 mg), and Canada (2.3 mg) were our largest customers.


There were no U.S. imports of ethanol recorded in May. However, Brazil has shipped 36.0 mg of sugarcane-based ethanol to the West Coast this calendar year.


U.S. exports of dried distillers grains (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry-mill ethanol plants—declined by 21% in May to 601,029 metric tons (mt), more fully reflecting the decline in ethanol industry capacity utilization that took place due to COVID-19 restrictions. Shippers trimmed exports to Mexico by 6% to 119,699 mt (a fifth of worldwide sales), the lowest volume in more than three years. Vietnam imports were halved to 68,380 mt, thereby surrendering its one-month lead as our top customer. May U.S. DDGS exports perked up to Indonesia (63,083 mt, +31%), Turkey (47,767 mt, up from zero), and New Zealand (28,955 mt, +16%), but lost ground in South Korea (52,042 mt, -44%) and Thailand (24,138 mt, -72%). Worldwide U.S. DDGS sales for the first five months of the year imply an annualized export volume of 9.83 million mt.



Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a Research Analyst at RFA.