New RFA Reports Summarize Ethanol and Distillery Grains Trade in 2021



According to two new statistical reports released today by the Renewable Fuels Association, U.S. exports of ethanol and distillery grains demonstrated resilience in 2021 as the global economy continued to grapple with the COVID pandemic and supply chain challenges.

The annual reports, now in their eighth year, provide industry advocates, policy makers, the media and the general public with the latest information on the important role U.S. ethanol and distillers grains play in the World Scene.

“As these reports show, exports continue to represent a critically important market opportunity for U.S. ethanol producers,” said Geoff Cooper, President and CEO of RFA. “Our industry’s export sales, which totaled nearly $6 billion, made a substantially positive contribution to the country’s trade balance in 2021 and boosted farm incomes in rural communities in the heartland. As nations around the world embrace ethanol as a low-cost solution to improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions, RFA continues to work with our allies to seek out and protect opportunities for free and fair trade.

The Ethanol Trade Summary report shows that 1.24 billion gallons were exported in 2021, representing 8.3% of total ethanol production in the United States. Although this is 5% less than in 2020, it remains the fifth largest export volume in history and, at $2.77 billion, the value of these exports was the second highest on record.

US ethanol has been shipped to 88 countries on all six inhabited continents. Canada remained the top export destination, absorbing 30% of US ethanol exports in 2021, followed by India and South Korea. Overall exports fell mainly due to lower shipments to Brazil, which instituted a punitive tariff on imports from the United States. Exports to that country were 59% below 2020 levels, when it was the second-largest market for U.S. ethanol exports. The United States imported just 58 million gallons of ethanol, a five-year low and the second-lowest total in 10 years. As a result, the United States remained a net exporter by a wide margin in 2021.

The second business summary report released today covers exports of co-products, including distillers grains, a protein-rich feed ingredient for livestock and poultry. Distillery grain exports totaled 11.6 million metric tons in 2021, a slight improvement from 2020 and the third highest annual volume on record. This represents 36% of distillers grain production in the United States.

Distillers grains were exported to more than 50 countries. Mexico remained the top destination for US distillers grains, accounting for 21% of total shipments, followed by Vietnam and South Korea. U.S. distillers grain exports set a record in 2021 with an aggregate value of $3 billion.