UNICA says cane crush, ethanol sales up in south central Brazil

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 06, 2013

At the start of the new season, the sugarcane crush in Brazil’s south central region is nearly double that of a year ago, though it is still down from the volume processed two years ago.

UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, reported the region processed 39.85 million tons of sugarcane during the first-half of May, compared to 20.88 million tons processed during the same period last year. From the start of the current harvest season through May 15, the cane crush totaled 81.11 million tons, which represents a 132 percent increase from the 35.01 million tons processed during the same period in 2012/2013, and a 13.41 percent drop from the 93.67 million tons processed during the same period in 2010/11, when South Central mills processed 556.95 million tons of cane over the course of the entire season. Current projections for the current, 2013/2014 season are for a total of 589.6 million tons, according to Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, technical director for UNICA.

Ethanol production is keeping pace with last year. During the first half of May, 56.47 percent of the cane processed went to ethanol production, compared to 54.89 percent during the same period in 2012/2013. From the start of the current season through May 15, 58.31 percent of the cane processed has been dedicated to ethanol production, compared to 57.42 percent during the same period last year.

“At the start of this season, the share of mills that produce only ethanol fell to less than 14 percent of the total, and this prevented the production mix from being even more ethanol-oriented,” Rodrigues said. “When we confine the analysis to units capable of producing both sugar and ethanol, the emphasis on ethanol production is clear since, up to now, these units have reduced the amount of cane going toward sugar production by 2.5 percentage points.”

Rodrigues noted that the amount of processed cane that can be steered toward ethanol production is limited to a certain extent by sugar supply commitments that were entered into last year. A total of 1.64 billion liters (433 million gallons) of ethanol were produced during the first-half of May—974.95 million liters of hydrous and 666.91 million liters of anhydrous ethanol.

From the start of the current season through May 15, ethanol production totaled 3.25 billion liters—2.19 billion liters of hydrous and 1.06 billion liters of anhydrous ethanol. Sugar production totaled 2.06 million tons during the first-half of May and 3.76 million tons since the start of the season.

Ethanol sales by South Central producers totaled 920.90 million liters during the first-half of May, representing a 23.91 percent increase compared to the same period in 2012. Of that total, 73.98 million liters were for export, and 846.92 million liters supplied Brazil’s domestic market.

In the domestic market, anhydrous ethanol sales totaled 343.67 million liters, representing a 41.15 percent increase compared to the same period last year. The increase was expected considering that the anhydrous ethanol blend rate in Brazil’s gasoline went from 20 to 25 percent as of May 1.

Domestic sales of hydrous ethanol totaled 503.26 million liters during the first-half of May, representing a 12.20 percent increase from the 448.53 million liters sold during the same period last year.

“Hydrous ethanol consumption should continue rising in coming weeks since the biofuel is price-competitive with gasoline in a good portion of the Brazilian market,” Rodrigues said. A survey conducted last week by Brazil’s National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANP) showed that, within the city of São Paulo, more than 70 percent of service stations surveyed had hydrous ethanol priced competitively with gasoline.