Corn, ethanol exports robust, DDGS see encouraging export rebound

By Susanne Retka Schill | May 11, 2015

The current robust pace of corn and ethanol exports and prospects for further improvement in the pace of distillers grains exports are encouraging, University of Illinois economist Darrel Good said in his weekly outlook published in FarmDoc Daily the day before the USDA’s May supply/demand report.

With market focus on new crop prospects and corn carryover into the new marketing year, Good analyzed the recent pace of exports for corn, ethanol and distillers grains. Corn exports for the first half of the current marketing exceeded last year’s pace, he said, “but lagged the pace needed to reach the USDA projection of total marketing year exports.” The pace picked up in late February, however, and Census Bureau reports would indicate about 1.193 billion bushels have been exported through May 7.  An average of 36.6 million bushels per week is needed in corn exports to reach the current USDA projection of 1.8 billion bushels, Good added, which compares to recent weekly averages of 42.8 million bushels.

Looking at ethanol exports, Good pointed out the record 2011 ethanol exports accounted for eight percent of U.S. production during the 2011-‘12 corn marketing year at 1.087 billion gallons. They dropped by nearly half the following year to 554 million gallons, limited by smaller supply and record high corn prices. Ethanol exports rebounded to 792 million gallons in 2013-‘14, accounting for 5.6 percent. “Exports so far this year have accounted for 6.4 percent of domestic ethanol production. While there is no publically available information on ethanol export commitments for the remainder of the year, exports are on pace to be the second largest, behind only those of 2011-12.”

Distillers grains set record export levels in the 2013-‘14 corn marketing year, at 13.3 million tons, an estimated 30 percent of total U.S. production that year. As a result of Chinese import restrictions, DDGS exports totaled 6.67 million tons in the first seven months of 2014-‘15, down 18 percent from the previous year. Exports to China averaged about 595,000 tons per month in May, June and July of 2014, dropping to 107,000 per month in the fourth quarter and January, 2015. They recovered to 517,000 tons in March.  “While the pace of exports is recovering, shipments will likely continue to lag those of a year ago into the summer,” Good said.

“The strength of export demand for U.S corn, ethanol, and distillers' grains is not completely revealed by the magnitude of shipments since quantity demanded presumably varies with price,” Good concluded. “A continuation of modest corn prices suggests that export quantities will remain large.”