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Trade Monitor
Global U.S. Ethanol and DDGS Export Pace Slows at Year End

February 5, 2021

Trade, Exports


February 5, 2021 — The official numbers are in and they confirm that, despite the pandemic and trade barriers, the U.S. ethanol industry exported 1.33 billion gallons in 2020—the fourth-largest volume on record.


American shipments of ethanol slowed in December by 2% to 111.3 million gallons (mg). Exports to Canada shrank 35% to 22.9 mg, equivalent to just 21% of global shipments for the month. However, exports surged to South Korea (up 89% to 12.9 mg) and China (up 45% to 12.5 mg, its largest U.S. ethanol draw since March 2018). Hong Kong entered the market essentially for the first time with a hefty purchase of 10.5 mg. Shipments to Brazil fell 43% from November as the tariff rate quota expired and all shipments from the U.S. became subject to a 20% tariff. Other larger markets included Colombia (7.0 mg), the Netherlands (5.7 mg), the United Kingdom (5.6 mg), the Philippines (5.5 mg), and India (5.3 mg).


The U.S. imported 20.7 mg of ethanol from Brazil, up 7% from November.


U.S. exports of dried distillers grains (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry-mill ethanol plants—declined 9% in December to a seven-month low of 842,738 metric tons (mt). However, U.S. exports strengthened to our largest customer, with sales to Mexico up 11% to 155,823 mt. Demand for U.S. DDGS also jumped in South Korea, rising 34% to 119,315 mt. Those markets, together with Vietnam (101,642 mt, down 21%), Indonesia (99,145 mt, up 18%), Turkey (54,956 mt, down 54%), China (43,260 mt, up 37%), Morocco (a 15-month high of 34,089 mt), and Canada (30,416 mt, down 18%), accounted for three-fourths of our export market in December. Notably, U.S. DDGS exports to Thailand dropped 56% to a 22-month low of 12,980 mt.


Watch for RFA’s release of our 2020 Exports & Imports Statistical Summaries, which will be posted next week to our Publications webpage here.



Ken Colombini