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Record July Brazilian ethanol prices seen in Center-South

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Record July Brazilian ethanol prices seen in Center-South

Sao Paulo — Hydrous ethanol prices in Brazil's key Center-South region increased 6% in July, to Real 2,120/cu m ex-mill Ribeirao Preto, as assessed by S&P Global Platts on Thursday, from from Real 2,000/cu m on July 1.

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It was the highest price ever recorded by Platts for any July. Platts has been assessing domestic ethanol price since April 2014. Anhydrous ethanol prices have increased 4.5% to 2,080/cu m ex-mill Ribeirao Preto from Real 1,990/cu m during the same period. The domestic anhydrous ethanol assessment was at an 11.50% premium over hydrous ethanol on Thursday.

Although the hydrous and anhydrous ethanol ex-mill Ribeirao Preto respective price increases of 6% and 4.5% were not out of the ordinary, the unusual aspect about them was that they were in July, a month which typically sees the region's highest production runs of ethanol, which historically has put downward pressure on ethanol prices.

The two primary reasons for this dramatic price increase in ethanol in July have been strong demand in the Center-South during the second half of the month and reported shortages in Goias state and Brazil's Northeast region. According to a July 24 report by industry association UNICA, mills in CS Brazil sold 9.59 billion liters of ethanol April 1-July 15, an amount almost 1 billion liters more than in the year-ago period.

"I believe the sudden rise in the ethanol price is due to the combination of large distributors replenishing their stocks for the second half of July and needing to send higher than normal quantities of ethanol to the Northeast," a trader said.

A potential factor that could limit further ethanol price increases is the low sugar price, which could encourage producers to further maximize their ethanol production. The front-month October NY11 sugar futures contract settled Thursday at a 2.16 cents/lb discount to hydrous ethanol in raw sugar equivalent. Flex mills will certainly maximize their ethanol-to-sugar production to take advantage of the favorable pricing towards ethanol.

As July draws to a close, market participants are expecting the rally in domestic ethanol prices to run out of steam and be contained in the near term.

"Prices should stabilize at these price levels as distributors have restocked and are well supplied in most states in the near term," a second source said.

In addition, the crushing season is about to start in the Northeast in mid-August, which might bring additional stocks of ethanol there and lower the need for ethanol transfers from the Southeast to meet Northeast demand.

The Platts anhydrous ethanol NNE Brazil DAP Suape also spiked comparing with the same period of 2018. Platts assessed anhydrous DAP Suape at Real 2,260/cu m on July 19, a surge of Real 150/cu m year on year. Platts started to publish anhydrous DAP Suape assessment in November 2017.

--Nicolle Monteiro de Castro, nicolle.castro@spglobal.com

--Phillip Herring, phillip.herring@spglobal.com

--Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com