US ethanol exports on record pace after strong 2016

By EPM Staff | March 10, 2017

The United States remained the world’s top exporter of ethanol in 2016 and is stretching its lead in early 2017.

According to USDA information analyzed by the U.S. Grains Council and the Renewable Fuels Association, 2016 concluded with U.S. net exports of 838 million gallons, the second highest level ever, exceeded only in 2011. U.S. ethanol shipments exceeded 1 billion gallons, and incoming shipments totaled nearly 215 million gallons, with virtually no imports over the past seven months.

January ethanol exports alone hit 122 million gallons, registering as the third highest monthly volume on record—just behind October and November of last year. According to the RFA, most American ethanol landed in Brazil (48 percent), Canada (22 percent), India (9 percent) and the United Arab Emirates (9 percent). January trade data implies annualized exports of 1.46 billion gallons in 2017, a projected record.

For a majority of the 2000s, Brazil was the largest net exporter of ethanol in the world, and the United States was among the world’s largest net importers, according to the USGC. The United States started as a net exporter of ethanol in 2010, exporting more than 410 million gallons and importing more than 131 million gallons that year. By 2011, U.S. exports rose so sharply (more than 1.2 billion gallons) that the United States seized the top world net exporter of ethanol slot from Brazil. However, the drought in the 2012-2013 marketing year decreased the competitiveness of U.S. ethanol in global markets, cutting global exports. In 2014, U.S. net ethanol exports rebounded, exceeding Brazil’s net exports by 166 million gallons.

Historically, about 85 percent of U.S. ethanol imports originate from Brazil. This year, however, the United States has imported very little Brazilian ethanol due to the much lower price for U.S. corn ethanol relative to Brazilian ethanol. For example, January was all but absent of any fuel ethanol imports and, at this level, total imports for the year could be as low as 100 million gallons.