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Center-South Brazil's hydrous ethanol price to rise despite soft January demand: sources

Sao Paulo — Hydrous ethanol prices in Brazil's key Center-South region are expected to rise in the near-term despite the weakness in demand seen in January, sources said.

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An industry report released on Wednesday showed 1.75 billion liters of hydrous ethanol were sold in the Center-South region in January, a decline of 4.3% from the same period last year.

Although market participants were expecting higher sales of hydrous ethanol, they said the long-term demand-and-supply scenario remains bullish for prices until late March.

The ICE March NY11 sugar futures contract settled Wednesday at a 0.95 cent/lb premium to hydrous ethanol in raw sugar equivalent. Further along the curve, the ICE May NY11 sugar futures contract settled at a 0.23 cent/lb premium and the ICE July NY11 sugar futures contract settled at a 0.06 cent/lb premium to hydrous ethanol in raw sugar equivalent.

All calculated premiums use ICE NY11 sugar futures compared to Wednesday's hydrous ethanol, in raw sugar equivalent benchmark price.

If ICE NY11 sugar futures for the front month can rise to establish a 1 cent/lb premium to hydrous ethanol in raw sugar equivalent for more than 30 days, mills in the Center-South region could start switching to greater sugar production, sources said.

However, market participants do not see the this scenario happening because of the current demand-and-supply picture for domestic ethanol, which is pointing to higher ethanol prices in the near-term.


S&P Global Platts assessed Grade B ethanol, FOB Santos, for 20-30 days forward loading at $546/cu m on Wednesday, unchanged from Tuesday.

Ulsan buyers meeting Brazilian producers at the US ethanol conference in Houston said this week that while Brazilian producers are unwilling to give offer indications, prices could go higher in the new session starting April compared to the previous session. Loading, however, could come a little earlier than the May period.

Fresh Grade B cargoes from Brazil were pegged at $550-$560s/cu m CFR Ulsan in 2019.

Meanwhile, Pakistani producers are in deep discussions on possibly increasing the output of ENA-grade ethanol in the third quarter, given prices are above Pakistani Rupee 20,000/mt ($129.45/mt), with indications of at least $800/mt FOB Karachi, and landing into Ulsan above $700/cu m.

This will leave the hydrous ethanol market in the Far East entirely to the Brazilian producers, with occasional cargoes from Cambodia, Peru and Guatemala and some Pakistani cargoes, sources said.

Japanese buyers in Ulsan are largely covered -- mostly with Brazilian ethanol -- until June 2020 and will be offtaking fresh cargoes from Brazil soon, sources added.