Distillers grains exports nearly double in 2008

By Susanne Retka Schill | February 04, 2009
Web exclusive posted Feb. 23, 2009, at 10:42 a.m. CST

U.S. distillers grains exports nearly doubled last year, rising from 2.36 million metric tons in 2007 to 4.51 million metric tons in 2008, according to data recently released by the U.S. Foreign Agriculture Service. Exports in 2008 nearly quadrupled over 2006 export levels.

The Renewable Fuels Association pointed to the dramatic increase in distillers grains sales as important information to communicate in the ongoing effort to represent the corn ethanol industry. "Distillers grains are an exceptionally valuable coproduct of U.S ethanol production from grain," said RFA Vice President of Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper. "This increasing production and use of distillers grains is providing livestock feeders across the globe with a high protein source of feed that can partially displace the need for corn and soybean meal in feed rations. As a result, distillers grains are an important and often overlooked component of both the fictitious debate about food versus fuel and the ongoing discourse surrounding the science of land use change."

The amount of distillers grains exported in 2008 was equivalent to the feed value of 4.3 million metric tons (170 million bushels) of whole corn and 1.3 million metric tons of soybean meal. Distillers grains exported in 2008 amounted to approximately 20 percent of the total U.S. distillers grains production of 22 million metric tons.

Considering that more than half of all corn is fed to livestock, increasing the use of distillers grains domestically and internationally reduces the need for increased acres for both corn and soybean production. According to the RFA, this factor is critically important to the current debate surrounding the land use change impacts of America's renewable fuels industry. Properly accounting for the use of distillers grains would dramatically lower any calculated land use change impact for grain-based ethanol.

According to the Foreign Agriculture Service data, for the third consecutive year, Mexico was the top market for U.S. distillers grains, with nearly a quarter of the nation's exports, or 1.2 million metric tons, shipped to Mexico in 2008. Mexico imported 68 percent more distillers grains in 2008 than in 2007. Canada ranked second, receiving nearly 772,000 metric tons of U.S. distillers grains in 2008, more than double 2007 levels. Turkey ranked third with more than 465,000 metric tons shipped in 2008, more than triple the amount exported to Turkey in 2007.