U.S. ethanol exports were the bright spot in an otherwise dark 2020 for the industry.
According to the Renewable Fuels Association, ethanol exports totaled 1.33 billion gallons in 2020, down 9 percent from 2019 and the lowest volume since 2016, according to official government statistics released today. Still, the annual volume was the fourth-highest on record and nearly one out of every 10 gallons of U.S. ethanol produced last year was exported.
“COVID-19 and protectionist trade barriers created enormous headwinds for ethanol in the international market in 2020,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “But the U.S. ethanol industry again rose to the challenge and supplied more than 1.3 billion gallons of clean, green renewable fuel to customers across the globe. American ethanol continues to play a crucial role in helping nations around the world reduce consumer fuel costs, cut harmful tailpipe pollution, and meet decarbonization commitments under the Paris climate agreement. We are especially encouraged to see that China finally re-entered the market in December, importing nearly 13 million gallons of U.S. ethanol. We enter 2021 on solid footing and the industry is optimistic about the prospects for meaningful growth in ethanol exports.”
Canada remained as the top market during 2020, receiving 326 million gallons, or almost one-quarter of the total. Shipments to Canada in 2020 were only 1.5 percent lower than the volumes exported there in 2019. Brazil received 200 million gallons of U.S. ethanol in 2020, down 40 percent from 2019 due to constant uncertainty surrounding import tariffs. India was the third-leading market, with 190 million gallons. While overall export volumes were down from 2019 levels, shipments to several key markets increased. India, the European Union, Mexico, and Nigeria all imported more U.S. ethanol in 2020 than in 2019.
The RFA will release its annual statistical reports detailing U.S. exports of ethanol and distillers grains next week.