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Analysis: South Korean buyers turn to Pakistani industrial ethanol as Brazilian prices soar

Singapore — South Korean buyers have turned to Pakistani ENA and REN industrial ethanol grades for late December to January delivery, as prices have dipped below those from Brazil following a rally in Brazilian ethanol prices.

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At the same time, price offers from Pakistan had fallen on an expected increase in supply as cane crushing is likely to pick up pace with the start of the 2018-19 (October-September) season.

Offers of Pakistan ENA grade ethanol for November-December loading had fallen to $630/mt FOB Karachi -- equivalent to $554/cu m CFR Ulsan -- on Thursday, from $650/mt FOB Karachi on October 1, while offers of REN grade were heard at $625/mt FOB Karachi on Thursday, which equated to $549/cu m CFR Ulsan.

Further out, Pakistani REN and ENA ethanol prices are expected to continue softening, as prices for 2019 term year were heard at $630/mt FOB Karachi for ENA and at $615-$620/mt FOB Karachi for REN, a Pakistani trader said.

As for Grade B ethanol from Brazil, prices have increased to $560/cu m Thursday, from $532/cu m at the start of October, S&P Global Platts data showed.

CFR Ulsan Grade B Offers

The appreciation of the Brazilian real, as well as concerns over limited availability due to a sudden death to the cane crop in Brazil saw a surge of 10.44% in Brazilian Grade B industrial ethanol prices from the beginning of October to $529/cu m FOB Santos/Paranagua on Thursday, Platts data showed.

The Brazilian real has firmed by 5.76% since the beginning of October to Real 3.7777 against the dollar on Thursday, with the right-wing Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro likely to win the election on October 28.

Further compounding the issue, chronic dryness in Center-South Brazil is expected to bring an early end to crushing, with the season seen closing a month to six weeks earlier than usual, market sources said. Five mills have already ended their crushing, while another 32 mills are expected to stop operations by October 15, UNICA data released Wednesday showed.

Hydrous ethanol output in second-half September reached 1.14 billion liters, down 26.9% from H1 September production of 1.56 billion liters, and down 0.1% from the year-ago period, the data showed.

South Korean undenatured ethanol imports

Brazil had been the largest supplier of undenatured ethanol to South Korea in August and September, accounting for 52% or 6,836 mt of South Korea's imports in August, and 81% or 5,108 mt in September. Over January-September, South Korea imported 16,749 mt from Brazil, Korea Customs service data showed.

But Pakistan was the largest supplier of undenatured ethanol to South Korea in the first nine months at 31,216 mt, of which the majority 67% was delivered between April and July. Volumes in August and September subsequently tapered off to just 7% of the January-September figure, the customs data showed.

-- Srijan Kanoi, srijan.kanoi@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Irene Tang, newsdesk@spglobal.com