U.S. ethanol exports drop sharply in February, raising concerns
Total exports also were down over 20 percent from the prior month. That came as demand from China, which was the top consumer in January dropped by nearly 70 percent to 33.7 million liters, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed.
The figures were lower than some expected, raising speculation among traders that some shipments would be seen in data published next month and worries among others that demand in foreign markets is taking a hit from currency gyrations and low oil prices at a time when it is most needed.
Brazil was the top destination in February, the data showed. Importers there scooped up 83.6 million liters, more than triple what they took in January and confirming Reuters reporting in early February that high local prices in Brazil were renewing demand from one of the top consumers of U.S. ethanol.
Still, that was slightly lower than volumes shipped to Brazil in February 2015. Year-to-date shipments to the South American country are down more than 40 percent in the first two months of the year.
"The strong dollar is one reason," said a U.S. trader, noting the trend as worrying.
The U.S. dollar hovering near multi-year highs makes the greenback-traded fuel more expensive to foreign buyers.
Ethanol futures traded on the Chicago Board of Trade are up slightly this year and inventories are near record levels.