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Brazil ethanol imports slow to 103 mil liters in May; North, Northeast prices up

Sao Paulo β€” Brazilian ethanol imports slowed down in May with 103.3 million liters entering the country, down 74% from the previous month's volume and 8% lower on the year, data from the Secretariat of Foreign Trade (SECEX) showed Friday.

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The volume is the lowest monthly volume since December when Brazil imported 84.6 million liters.

Cumulative imports in the first five months of 2018 stand at 1.15 billion liters, up 6% from a year ago.

Almost the entire volume imported in May entered Brazil via the North-Northeast region.

Brazil's North and Northeast regions are net importers of ethanol, with imports coming from the US, as well as regional transfers from the Centre-South of Brazil.

The lower imports in May were expected as from April to September, when the CS sugarcane crush is taking place, the CS is the main supplier of the NNE region.

The combination of lower imports and higher prices in CS has translated to higher prices in the NNE region over the past few weeks.

The truckers strike that paralyzed the country a week ago and higher freight rates agreed after the strike also contributed to increased spot prices in the NNE.

S&P Global Platts assessed anhydrous ethanol DAP Suape at Real 2,200/cu m last Friday, surging Real 305/cu m from a month ago.

Market sources said it is not currently possible to find freight at less than Real 390/cu m from Sao Paulo to Suape.

According to Platts calculations, anhydrous ethanol from Sao Paulo would land in Suape at Real 2,399/cu m.

Regional distributors are considering transporting product by boat from Santos port to Suape port. It would be a cheaper and faster alternative to supply the NNE market than the usual road transportation.

Total imports in 2018 should reach just over 1.5 billion liters, S&P Global Platts Analytics estimates, down around 14% from 2017, but still the second-highest volume of ethanol to be imported in the country.

The deficit of anhydrous is estimated to be lower this season as a larger portion of the sugarcane crop is expected to be directed towards ethanol production.

Platts Analytics estimates 59% of the cane crush to be directed to ethanol, compared with 53.4% in the last season. This should translate to a total of 27.4 billion liters, up 5% year on year.

--Beatriz Pupo,
--Nicolle Castro,
--Edited by Alisdair Bowles,