RFA: U.S. ethanol export opportunities abound

By Renewable Fuels Association | January 08, 2014

U.S. ethanol exports surged to 82.4 million gallons in November, with large volumes finding their way into new or emerging markets such as China and India, as well as the Philippines, Tunisia, Panama, and Mexico, according to government data released this week.

Total exports were up 54 percent from October, reaching the highest monthly level since March 2012, which can be seen in the chart below. Canada was once again the leading importer of U.S. product, receiving 28.5 million gallons in November. The Philippines followed with an annual high of 14.0 million gallons, while India (8.1 million gallons), Brazil (4.3 million gallons), and Norway (4.3 million gallons) were other top destinations. For the first time since 2002, a sizable volume of fuel ethanol was exported to China (3.5 million gallons). Similarly, Panama imported meaningful volumes of U.S. fuel ethanol (2.0 million gallons) for the first time since 1992. Tunisia (2.3 million gallons) and Mexico (1.7 million gallons) are other relatively new markets that imported U.S. product in November.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, touted the uptick of exports to China and India as a huge opportunity for the ethanol industry and an indicator that ethanol demand is continuing to expand and grow overseas.

Dinneen noted, “U.S. produced ethanol continues to be the lowest cost liquid transportation fuel on the planet. The fact that rapidly developing countries like China and India are turning to the U.S. for fuel supply is both a reflection of that economic reality and the effort of U.S. producers to look beyond our borders to build demand. The RFA will continue working hard on behalf of American ethanol producers to grow and strengthen our export relationships with these emerging countries even as we continue to expand ethanol usage domestically.”

Dinneen continued, “But it’s not just one or two big countries where we are seeing an increase in ethanol imports. Other new markets such as Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia and Panama are also expanding ethanol consumption. If we add onto that the volume of ethanol that the U.S. exports to Brazil, we see a huge overseas market emerging.”

The Renewable Fuels Association has worked with the U.S. government and U.S. ethanol producers to expand trade abroad. Most recently, Ed Hubbard, RFA’s general counsel, led a trade mission to Brazil through the Brazil-U.S. Business Council connecting U.S. ethanol companies with business opportunities in the northern regions of the country.

Additionally, Kelly Davis, RFA’s director of regulatory affairs, joined the U.S. Grains Council on a trade mission last May to South Korea and Japan. She visited Seoul and Tokyo, where she had the opportunity to discuss and promote the trade of ethanol and its co-products, specifically distillers dried grains (DDGS), overseas.

This week’s government data also showed exports of DDGS—the animal feed co-product from dry mill ethanol production—surged to a new monthly record in November, driven by unprecedented shipments to China. November DDGS exports totaled a record 1.08 million metric tons, up 16 percent from October. China was the leading destination, bringing in 619,412 metric tons, or more than 57 percent of the total. Mexico (134,437 metric tons), Japan (35,152 metric tons), South Korea (34,547 metric tons), and Canada (34,465 metric tons) rounded out the top five markets for DDGS exports in November. Year-to-date exports stood at 8.72 million metric tons through November, implying an annualized total of 9.51 million metric tons—if realized, this would be a new annual record.

Dinneen concluded, “Ethanol producers are also seeing increased export opportunities for DDGS. The export of this high protein feedstock is important to ethanol producers domestically and essential to farmers abroad. It is a win-win scenario and we will continue working to expand the market for this important by-product and continue to actively fight any barriers to entry that might emerge. The RFA will again sponsor the ‘Export Exchange’ with the U.S. Grains Council this fall.”