US ethanol exports continue to rise

By Tim Albrecht | May 18, 2018

The U.S. has exported almost 1 billion gallons of ethanol seven months into the 2017/18 marketing year, up 15 percent compared to the last marketing year, according to the U.S. Grains Council.

March and February each took over the top two slots for monthly exports. March exceeded 215 million gallons, the second highest monthly sales behind nearly 220 million gallons in February. Both months surpassed the previous monthly record of 178 million gallons in December 2011.

“The incredible cost-competitiveness of U.S. ethanol has enabled sales to break through tariffs and set new records despite numerous trade policy issues,” said Mike Dwyer, U.S. Grains Council chief economist. “U.S. ethanol remains on track for another banner year of exports.”

Brazil remains the top importer of U.S. ethanol with 96 million gallons in sales in March 2018, bringing the total for the marketing year to almost 349 million gallons. These sales occurred despite a slow start following the implementation of a 20 percent tariff on imports outside a quota equaling approximately 40 million gallons quarterly.

Despite the 20 percent tariff on U.S. imports by Brazil, overall imports are still up 12 percent for the marketing year, which demonstrates that Brazil doesn’t have enough ethanol to meet demand by consumers and the economic advantage of U.S. supplies, Dwyer says. “While sales to Brazil are expected to cool slightly due to the beginning of sugarcane harvesting season, the United States is on track to potentially set another record for ethanol exports to this market this marketing year.”

Other large year-over-year increases in demand also came from markets in which U.S. ethanol is subject to high tariff measures, such as China and the European Union.

Sales to China are up 57 percent to 77.4 million gallons thus far in the marketing year, making China the fourth largest export market for U.S. ethanol. However, it is unclear if the United States will export any additional ethanol to China this marketing year following the imposition of another 15 percent to the existing 30 percent tariff on the U.S. product.

Even with trade barriers in the European Union, U.S. ethanol exports have increased 749 percent compared to the same time the previous year, to 47.2 million gallons. Almost all of these exports are believed to be re-exported to other markets in the Middle East and Africa, not for consumption within the European Union.