US ethanol offers and bids emerge in China, amid optimism on trade talks

Source: By Donavan Lim, S&P Global • Posted: Friday, January 25, 2019

Singapore — There was an offer heard on Tuesday for US origin denatured ethanol at $510/mt CFR China for a 35,000 mt cargo for prompt shipment, with a bid at $450-460/mt CFR China, after little or no trading activity for fuel ethanol between the two countries since July, when the 70% import duty for US denatured ethanol came into effect in China.

 Traders were optimistic on the US-China trade talks, saying that US ethanol flows to China would begin if the import duty is rolled back from the current 70% to 30%.

“If the duty for US origin [fuel] ethanol is reduced to 30% from the current 70% then [the] price around $480-$485/mt CFR China would be workable,” a market source said.

The domestic price for fuel ethanol in China was heard at Yuan 5,300/mt or $779.5/mt ex-factory in East China.

The arbitrage window remains closed at the current offer levels at $510/mt, making the landed price in China at $1,006/mt, accounting for the duty and 16% VAT.

However, if the duty is cut back to 30% for denatured ethanol imports, then the arbitrage window will be open into East China at the current offer levels with the landed price at $769/mt, after adding the duty and VAT.

Meanwhile, for the arbitrage window from the US to remain open in North China, where the majority of blending mandate will be rolled out, the offers need to come down to $490-495/mt, with prices in North China heard at around Yuan 5,100/mt, market sources said.

Before the trade war between China and US erupted, US denatured ethanol imports into China totaled 424,437 cu m or 537,943 mt over January-March, accounting for 99% of the total denatured ethanol imports into China in the period, General Administration of Customs data showed.

Since the trade war started, US-origin ethanol imports have dropped to 29.4% of China’s total denatured ethanol imports of 328,564 cu m. The majority of the US denatured ethanol imports of about 96,629 cu m into China after the trade war began was in May, when the import duty was 45%.

In 2018 after the out-break of the trade war, China turned to Malaysian and Indonesian denatured ethanol to sate its thirst.

Malaysian denatured ethanol imported into China in August and September was 60,055 cu m and 28,303 cum respectively. Whereas, 35,606 cu m and 59,924 cu m of Indonesian ethanol landed in China in September and November, respectively, the customs data showed.

However, the Malaysian and Indonesian cargoes were reported by traders to be of US-origin and re-exported to China with Form-E, which allows duty free imports into China.