RFA: September ethanol exports balloon as China returns to market

By Renewable Fuels Association | November 07, 2016

U.S. ethanol exports totaled 99.6 million gallons (mg) in September, up 28 percent–nearly 22 mg–over August, according to government trade data released Nov. 4 and analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association. This marks the highest monthly volume exported in almost five years (December 2011). Much of the upturn can be attributed to 27.9 mg in shipments to Canada, as trade across the northern border expanded by 33 percent over August rates. Brazil imported 18.1 mg in September, down 7 mg from August and falling back to second place. China reappeared as a significant buyer after taking the summer off, with imports of 17.8 mg of U.S. product in September. The Philippines (10.4 mg), the United Arab Emirates (9.2 mg) and South Korea (5.4 mg)–countries which tend to make larger purchases on an intermittent basis–all made larger purchases in September. Just six countries purchased 92 percent of U.S. ethanol exports in September. Year-to-date exports stood at 693.9 mg, implying an annual total of 925.2 mg for calendar year 2016.

September exports of U.S. denatured fuel ethanol more than doubled from the prior month to 44.1 mg. Canada (26.0 mg, or 59 percent), China (14.9 mg, or 34 percent) and Peru (3.1 mg, or 7 percent) were the primary markets—a change from the typically Canadian-dominated trade flow. Export sales of undenatured fuel ethanol in September held firm at high levels, increasing 2 percent over August levels to 51.5 mg. Brazil backed off from August undenatured imports, buying 18.1 mg (35 percent) in September. The Philippines export market was reinvigorated with 10.4 mg (20 percent) of undenatured product, while the 9.2 mg (18 percent) to the UAE reflected only the second time in two years that U.S. undenatured ethanol entered the country. South Korea, China and Singapore were other larger customers for undenatured fuel ethanol.

September sales of denatured ethanol for non-fuel use dropped back to a more normal volume of 2.1 mg after reaching nearly 6.5 mg in August. Canada was the primary customer with 1.9 mg, down from 3.0 mg the prior month, while the remaining volume was parceled out among several countries. September sales of undenatured fuel for non-fuel, non-beverage use increased 79 percent to 1.9 mg. South Korea purchased 1.5 mg (79 percent) in September–more product than it has brought in over the past two years combined–while Mexico returned to a more typical volume of 180,042 gallons (9 percent).

Following three straight months of sizable ethanol imports, September volumes entering the United States were fairly insignificant at just 5,535 gallons. About 5,000 gallons of undenatured ethanol were sourced from China and the remainder was Canadian denatured ethanol. Year-to-date total imports are 33.7 mg, suggesting annualized imports just shy of 45 mg. Should this volume be realized, the United States would import less than half of what it brought in for calendar year 2015.

U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product from dry mill ethanol production—in the global marketplace have been making measurable strides since the beginning of the year; however, September data showed a 15 percent pull-back from the prior month with 990,971 metric tons (mt) shipped. Once again China was the top market for U.S. exports with 166,650 mt, which is a third less than entered the country in August. China’s share of the total U.S. export market in September fell to just 17 percent–in sharp contrast to taking in half of all U.S. distillers grains exports in calendar year 2015. In September, South Korea increased its offtake to 166,650 mt (13 percent) and Vietnam purchased 123,267 mt (12 percent), while Mexico scaled back from August volumes by 39 percent to 122,513 mt (12 percent). Other larger markets include Thailand (87,506 mt), Egypt (56,461 mt), Turkey (46,200 mt) and Canada (41,291 mt). Through September, DDGS exports stood at 8.6 million mt, indicating an annualized total of 11.5 million mt. If realized, this would be the second largest DDGS export volume in history.