North Dakota trade mission visits Brazil to tap ethanol market



Jonathan Knutson | Grand Forks Herald

North Dakota ranks 10th in U.S. ethanol production. Brazil, already the world’s biggest buyer of U.S. ethanol, almost certainly will buy even more in the future.

Recognizing opportunity, state trade and ethanol industry officials recently visited Brazil to build relationships they hope will lead to future sales of North Dakota-produced ethanol to the South American country.

“It was a valuable trip for North Dakota’s ethanol industry,” said Deana Wiese, executive director of the North Dakota Ethanol Council. “With the significant increases in demand predicted in Brazil over the next decade, we’re optimistic that our companies will be able to help fulfill that need.”

North Dakota is capable of producing 520 million gallons of ethanol annually at five plants. About 10% of that is used in the state. The rest is sent to other states and exported to several countries, primarily Canada, with none currently going to Brazil, Wiese said.

The United States leads the world in ethanol production, with its product made from corn. Brazil ranks second, using sugar cane to make ethanol. Even so, Brazil relies heavily on imported ethanol in addition to what it produces itself. Last year, America exported 1.9 billion gallons of ethanol, 30% of it to Brazil.

Now, Brazil has evaluated whether to lift ethanol trade barriers, including a 20% duty on imported ethanol after an annual quota of 158 million gallons is reached.

“The Brazilian market is quite promising, especially if the 20% duty is eliminated, and this trade mission helped us build mutually beneficial relationships with ethanol industry leaders,” North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who led the trip, said in a written statement.

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