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Brazil's Center-South H2 Dec cane crush at season-low 2.556 million mt: UNICA

Houston — Brazil's Center-South region crushed a season-low 2.556 million mt ofsugarcane in the second half of December, down 75.5% from 10.445 million mt inthe first half of December and the lowest half-month output since the seasonstarted in April, industry association UNICA said Friday.

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The latest crush volume was also down 18.1% from 3.121 million mt in thesame period a year ago and was the lowest amount crushed in a December 16-31period since 920,000 mt in 2011.

The 2017-18 sugarcane season started April 1 in the Center-South, thelargest sugarcane and sugar-producing region in the world.

Total recoverable sugar, or ATR, was 145.74 kg/mt of cane in H2 December,up 15.2% from 126.5 kg/mt in H1 December and up 16.3% on the year from 125.34kg/mt.

The percentage of cane used to produce sugar was a season-low 31.25% inH2 December, down from 40.17% in H1 December and 35.28% in H2 December 2016.

The balance was used to produce ethanol.

"The 2017-18 harvest is practically closed in the Center-South region,since only four production units remain in operation after January 1," saidAntonio de Padua Rodrigues, technical director of UNICA.

"The amount of sugarcane that will be processed in March, in turn, willdepend on the climatic conditions to be observed in this off-season," he said.

In the same period a year earlier, 15 mills were still working afterJanuary 1.

There were an estimated 271 sugar mills operating this season, accordingto Kingsman, the agricultural analysis unit of S&P Global Platts, down fromthe 271 mills that operated in 2016-17.

In H2 December, sugar production was at a season-low 111,000 mt, down78.1% from 506,000 mt produced in H1 December and down 15.6% from 131,000 mtproduced a year earlier. It was the lowest amount produced between December 16and December 31 since 2012 when 110,000 mt was produced.

Production of ethanol was also at a season-low 189 million liters, down61.8% from 495 million liters in H1 December, but up 12.3% year on year from169 million liters.

Hydrous production fell to 183.24 million liters, down 47.8% from 351million liters in H1 December but up 56.2% from 117 million liters produced ayear earlier.

The balance -- 6.15 million liters -- was anhydrous, down 88% from 51million liters produced in the same period a year ago.

Ethanol production includes a small volume of ethanol made from feedstockcorn. In H2 December, corn ethanol output was at a season-high 36.67 millionliters, including 32.14 million liters of hydrous and 4.53 million liters ofanhydrous.

Cumulative ATR for the season was 137.32 kg/mt, up 2.6% from 133.85 kg/mta year ago and the highest cumulative ATR, up to December 31, since 137.64kg/mt in the 2011-12 season.

From April through December, the cumulative sugarcane crush in CS Brazilis 583.39 million mt, down 1.5% from 592.05 million mt crushed a year ago.

CS mills have produced 35.823 million mt of sugar since April, up 1.7%from 35.21 million mt a year ago and a record high for the first nine monthsof a season.

Mills have allocated more cane to sugar production this season, with46.93% being diverted to sugar, up from 46.63% in the same period a yearearlier.

Despite the lower percentage directed to ethanol, cumulative productionof the biofuel is at 25.223 billion liters this season, up 1.2% year on yearfrom 24.915 billion liters.

Hydrous ethanol output amounted to 14.565 billion liters, up 1.3% from14.373 billion liters produced a year ago.

Cumulative anhydrous production is at 10.658 billion liters, up 1.1% from10.543 billion liters a year earlier.

Since the 2017-18 season started, corn ethanol output totaled 319.109million liters, up from 140.49 million liters in the first nine months of the2016-17 season.

Ethanol sales in December were at a five-month low 2.322 billion liters,but up 9.5% from 2.12 billion liters sold in the year-ago month.

Roughly 96.4% of the total ethanol sold in December, or 2.239 billionliters, went to the domestic market, while 83.171 million liters wereexported.

Since April, 19.99 billion liters have been sold, down 1.9% from 20.38billion liters sold a year ago.

Of the total sold this season, 11.95 billion liters were hydrous ethanol,while the remaining 8.04 billion liters were anhydrous. In the same period ayear earlier, 12.07 billion liters were hydrous and 8.31 billion liters wereanhydrous.

Hydrous ethanol is mostly used as fuel in flex-fuel vehicles and competeswith gasoline at the pump. Anhydrous is blended with gasoline at a 27% ratio,according to a national mandate. Both products are also used in industry.

--Tyler Godwin, tyler.godwin@spglobal.com

--Edited by Dan Lalor, daniel.lalor@spglobal.com