Brazilian ethanol imports in February were the highest since December 2011 at 257.4 million liters, up 49% from January and up from just 33 million liters a year earlier, data from the Secretariat of Foreign Trade (SECEX), showed Tuesday.
In December 2011, Brazil imported a record of 280 million liters.
The North-Northeast ports accounted for 82% of the total volume imported in February, or 210.4 million liters, while the balance entered the country through ports in Center-South.
Almost 100% of the volume was product originating from the US and to be used as fuel blended into gasoline. The country mandates a 27% ethanol mix with gasoline.
The small balance is likely to be samples and product for industrial purposes, according to Kingsman, the agricultural unit of S&P Global Platts.
Brazil has increased imports over recent months amid tight supply in the domestic market as producers have directed more cane to produce sugar at the expense of ethanol because of high international sugar prices.
In addition, the majority of the mills in Center-South region, the largest sugarcane producer in the world, are in the intercrop period, while in the North-Northeast region, the 2016-17 sugarcane season is almost coming to an end.
In the first two months of the year, total ethanol imports reached a record of 429 million liters, up from just 61.7 million liters over the same period last year, SECEX showed. The previous two-month record was in 2012 when nearly 282 million liters were imported over January-February.
Imports in March are expected to remain strong at roughly 200 million liters, according to Kingsman.
Although the 2017-18 sugarcane season in CS will officially start on April 1, Kingsman expects that the country will remain importing ethanol through the year as mills are likely to continue favoring sugar production rather than ethanol, Kingsman said.
Imports in 2017 are expected to reach roughly 1.5 billion liters, up 86% from 2016, according to Kingsman.