The Global Virus Impact Hits Brazil’s Ethanol Production

Concerns are growing as to whether Brazil will be able to maintain its recent growth pace for ethanol production as demand for biofuels reduces as the global Covid19 impact continues to bite.

The Latin American country produced 244m litres of ethanol from sugarcane during the first two weeks of March, according to Brazilian sugarcane industry association Única.

Ethanol output from corn the same period amounted to 85.6mn litres.

Ethanol production could suffer in this latest turmoil

A total of 32 sugar units and 11 corn plants were operating in the first half of this month, compared to 25 units and six plants, respectively, in the same period last year.

In the two-week period, anhydrous ethanol used in gasoline mixes registered 383mn litres in sales, up 3% year-on-year, while hydrous ethanol, which is used directly as fuel, saw sales of 691m litres.

Brazil’s ethanol products are also becoming less competitive due to the sharp reduction in oil prices after Saudi-Arabia and Russia failed to agree on oil output cuts.

Investors could concentrate on prioritising sugar production over fuels. And some of those companies are also increasing the output of cleaning supplies based on alcohol to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the reductions made so far in gasoline prices ethanol producers are already due to face difficulties,” said Rodrigo Leão, coordinator of the institute for technical studies of oil, gas, and biofuels.

Unica said reductions in gasoline prices were not felt yet by final consumers and that the effects of current market conditions will start to show when final numbers for March are released.

In order to help trading and distribution firms, sector regulator ANP said it would make mandatory ethanol stock rules more flexible.