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South Korea's ethanol imports jump 39% on year to 261,584 mt in 2017

South Korea's ethanol imports increased 39% year on year to 261,584 mt in 2017, according to data released Thursday by Korea Customs Service.

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Imports of denatured ethanol surged by 238% over the year to 117,782 mt in 2017. The US remained the key import origin last year, accounting for 78% of total imports, followed by Pakistan at 10% and South Africa at 6%.

Undenatured ethanol imports however, fell 6% year on year to 143,802 mt in 2017. Australia overtook Brazil as the largest supplier of undenatured ethanol last year, accounting for 44% of total imports, followed by Cambodia at 16% and Pakistan at 14%.

Volumes from Brazil accounted for only 9% of the total undenatured ethanol imports, down sharply from 49% in the previous year.

South Korea has been importing more undenatured ethanol form Australia since December last year because of more favorable prices compared with Brazilian and Pakistani industrial grade ethanol.

Grade B ethanol FOB Santos/Paranagua prices averaged $540/cu m in 2017, while freight rate to Ulsan ranged between $55/cu m and $65/cu m. This takes the landed price of grade B ethanol from Brazil into South Korea close to $600/cu m, S&P Global Platts data showed.

In comparison, grade B ethanol into South Korea averaged $560/cu m CFR Ulsan in 2017, Platts data showed.

In December, South Korea imported 33,922 mt of ethanol, up 5.5% from November, customs data showed.

Of this, 57.7% was denatured ethanol and the rest undenatured ethanol.

The main origins for denatured ethanol imports in December were the US (79%), Pakistan (13%) and South Africa (5%). For undenatured ethanol, 62% of imports came from Australia, 25% from Cambodia and 7% from Pakistan.

On the export front, South Korea exported 24,750 mt of ethanol in 2017, up 14% year on year. Undenatured ethanol accounted for 92% of the total, with almost all volumes headed to Japan. The rest were denatured ethanol, of which 94% was exported to the Philippines and 4% to Thailand.

In December, South Korea's ethanol exports fell 20.5% month on month to 1,612 mt. Undenatured ethanol accounted for 99.8% of total exports -- almost all of which headed to Japan.

--Srijan Kanoi,

--Edited by Irene Tang,