By Craig Willis, SVP of Global Markets

The global ethanol export outlook for 2018 ended on a high note – setting a record for the highest 12-month export period in history – and the initial export numbers from 2019 indicate that the success of the past year will continue. With 2019 exports reported at 127.9 million gallons to date, the year is starting off with the highest ever exports for the month and a record 12-month export period at 1.74 billion gallons. This is despite ongoing trade tensions and barriers in major markets and stands testament to the continuing growth in ethanol’s popularity as a tool for countries to reach their economic and climate goals. Initial 2019 ethanol export numbers indicate that large markets have retained their consistency, while smaller and burgeoning markets have shown promise for growth in the long-term.

Large Markets Stay Consistent

Brazil and Canada will, without doubt, remain top export destinations over the coming years, as well as a stable source for American producers. Brazil reported 38 million gallons, while Canada reported 19 million gallons, with both nations adding up to an overall decrease of 10 percent – or 6.9 million gallons – in exports from Dec. 2018 to Jan. 2019. Despite the decrease, these large markets remain consistent overall. Analysts should, however, expect a downturn in 12-month rolling exports for Feb. and March as we begin to feel the effects of ongoing trade tensions in larger untapped markets, like China.

Smaller Markets Show Potential for Growth

In the Jan. 2019 FAS report, smaller markets such as India, South Korea, Colombia, and the Philippines, largely saw growth, and these four export destinations saw a 49 percent increase – or 16.2 million gallons – from Dec. 2018 to Jan. 2019. This increase indicates the growth in the relative importance of smaller and newly formed markets in the global ethanol outlook. However, without reducing barriers to trade in larger markets like China, the American ethanol export outlook will remain constrained in reaching its full potential, even with growth in these smaller markets.

As our industry plans for the years ahead, fostering growth in smaller and burgeoning markets and continuing to forge strong trade relations to reduce barriers to trade will be critical to ensuring the long-term health of biofuels worldwide. This effort will not only be necessary for larger and growing markets like China and Mexico, but also for relatively smaller markets like Colombia and the Philippines. Stay tuned for more in the coming months on how Growth Energy is engaging across the globe with our allies and industry stakeholders to ensure a brighter future for biofuels.

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