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Distillers grains exports dip to four-year low in 2017

Exports to China plunged 84% compared to 2016.

U.S. exports of distillers grains (DG) totaled 11.08 million metric tons in 2017, according a summary of 2017 ethanol co-product trade data published by the Renewable Fuels Assn. (RFA).

An estimated 29% of U.S. DG production was exported in 2017, meaning nearly one-third of all production was exported to 50 countries on five continents last year. Mexico was the leading destination for U.S. DG, representing 20%, followed by Turkey at 13%, South Korea at 9%, Thailand and Indonesia each at 7% and Canada at 6%. Compared to 2016, Indonesia and Turkey saw the most growth in U.S. DG purchases, increasing by 104% and 79%, respectively.

However, U.S. DG exports to China plunged 84% compared to 2016 as the country imposed punitive antidumping and countervailing duties against U.S. product.

“After serving as the top destination for U.S. DG exports five years in a row, China fell to eighth place in 2017,” the RFA summary noted. “Just 3% of U.S. DG exports went to China in 2017, after the country accounted for 51% of the record exports experienced in 2015.”

China’s duties against U.S. product also played a significant role in the overall reduction of U.S. DG exports, down 2% from 2016 and the lowest in four years.

“As this summary highlights, distillers grains and other co-products are a vitally important part of the global feed market, and a growing number of countries and regions are relying on U.S. DG exports, including Mexico and the Middle East,” RFA president and chief executive officer Bob Dinneen said. “However, China’s protectionist actions are hampering overall U.S. DG exports and preventing the country’s livestock and poultry feeders from accessing an economical source of nutrition. We will continue to work with U.S. government officials and industry partners to address this barrier and ensure free and fair trade between our two countries.”

Among other facts from the RFA report were:

  • U.S. DG exports had a total aggregate value of $1.86 billion in 2017, down 14% from 2016 and the lowest in seven years.
  • The U.S. imported 290,000 metric tons of DG in 2017, equivalent to just 2.6% of DG exports and just 1% of domestic DG consumption. Canada was again the top supplier of DG imports, shipping 267,000 mt to the U.S., with Brazil and China the only other two DG exporters to the U.S. in 2017.
  • U.S. exports of corn gluten meal — a feed co-product made by ethanol wet mills — totaled 822,000 mt in 2017. Indonesia, Chile and Egypt were top destinations.
  • U.S. exports of corn gluten feed — another co-product from ethanol wet mills — hit 1.18 million mt in 2017, up slightly from 2016 and marking a six-year high. Ireland, Turkey and Israel combined to receive 73% of total U.S. corn gluten feed exports.
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