Brazil's ethanol-import tax vote postponed until July 26

06.07.2017

A vote by Brazilian foreign trade board Camex to reinstate the country's ethanol-import tariff has been postponed until July 26, market sources said late Tuesday.

The vote, which had already been rescheduled once from early May, was supposed to have taken place on Tuesday during a meeting of the Executive Management Committee of Camex.

The import tax was suspended in October 2011 because Brazil was undergoing an ethanol shortage due to crop problems. The tariff is currently suspended until 2019.

Amid surging imports throughout 2016 and early 2017, ethanol producers in the North-Northeast region and Brazilian sugar industry group Unica have made strong appeals to the federal government to impose a 17% tariff to restrict imports as the local biofuel loses competitiveness against US product.

The imports are usually via ports in the North-Northeast region, mainly in Paraiba and Maranhao states, where no local tax applies to imported ethanol.

ETHANOL IMPORTS SURGE

Brazilian imports of ethanol surged in 2016, totaling 834.6 million liters, a 63% year-on-year rise. Roughly 90% of the imports entered the country through North-Northeast ports.

The country's January-May imports totaled 1.08 billion liters of ethanol, up 310% from the same period last year, according to customs data.

In May alone, Brazil imported 248 million liters, up more than sixfold year on year and up 122% month on month.

The rise in imports in May and June was expected by industry participants because importers increased shipments in those months due to worries that the October 2011 import tariff could return.

NORTH-NORTHEAST REGION ETHANOL DEFICIT

The North-Northeast region has a structural deficit of anhydrous ethanol, as its local production represents roughly 27% of local fuel and industrial consumption.

In 2016, local anhydrous production represented only 30% of local demand. In the first five months of the year, anhydrous consumption, which is blended with gasoline at a 27% rate, rose 4% year on year to 1.32 billion liters, data from the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) showed.

For 2017, Kingsman, an agricultural unit of S&P Global Platts, has estimated that anhydrous ethanol fuel consumption will reach 3.26 billion liters, up 3% year on year.

Estimates from Kingsman showed that in 2017, imports from the US could make up 37% of the ethanol consumed in the North-Northeast, up from 15% in 2016.

US MARKET REACTION

The discussions for the return of an import tariff in Brazil have caught the attention of US exporters, who have eyed the increase in shipments to Brazil as an outlet that would have allowed them to switch the destination of volumes that would have gone to China before it re-imposed a 30% import tariff.

Kingsman estimates that Brazil should account for 43% of US exports in 2017, compared with 27% in 2016.

Despite the reinstatement of the tariff, market sources expect US exports to continue to flow to Brazil, given the current supply-and-demand picture in the South American country.


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