Corn ethanol production raises 22% in two years

Buenos Aires, August 21st. During the first half of 2018, ethanol corn-based production reaches 295,162 cubic meters,  12% above 2017 and 22% above 2016. Total national production, i.e. including ethanol cane-based, reaches 501,840; then, the corn industry supplied 59% of the total.

But only five industries are involved in the corn-based ethanol production. They are ACABio, Promaíz, Bio4, Diaser, and Vicentin. These factories were mounted between 2010 and 2014, impulsed by Biofuels Act, sanctioned in 2006 by National Congress. Its annual capacity range between 60,000 and 140,000 cubic metric; the Rosario Board of Trade (BCR as its Spanish acronym) has estimated a total industry capacity around 517,000 cubic meters per year, equivalent to a consumption of 1.3 million metric tons of corn.

According to an analysis by RIA Consultores, during the last three years, this factories showed a growth from 9% to 38%.

Who is who in this playing? ACA Bio is owned by Argentine largest farmers cooperative ACA in partnership with individual cooperatives. The factory is based in Villa Maria city (Córdoba Province) and its production capacity rounds 140,000 M3 a year.

Promaiz is a joint venture between local Aceitera General Deheza (owned by Urquia family) and global trader Bunge. It’s placed at Alejandro Roca city, also in Cordoba Province and its production capacity rounds 135,000 M3 a year. Bio4 was the pioneer of this industry and is owned by 28 farmers from the Rio Cuarto region, also in Cordoba Province. Annually it can to produce 82,000 M3, the same amount that Diaser, a family company based in Mercedes (San Luis Province). Finally, Vicentin is one of the largest agribusiness players in the country, own of port terminals over Parana River, oilseed crushing, feedlots, and biodiesel factories. Placed at Avellaneda (Santa Fe Province) its bioethanol plant has a capacity of 60,000 M3 a year.

“Our industry (corn ethanol) is running investment to expand the production capacity as we are seeing that sugar cane industry cannot meet the 50/50 target of ethanol supplying to oil companies”, Manuel Ron, chairman of Bio4, says in dialogue with  “In fact, this year it was necessary to import 5,000 M3 from Brazil to meet the demand”, Ron added.

Since 2016, National Government raised the mandatory blend from 10% to 12% and established that half of them were supplied by corn industry and the other half by sugar cane industry. But this year, as we wrote above, corn industry is supplying near 60%.

“Bio4 worked at 110% of its capacity and the other companies also overpassed its capacity; this is the reason why the companies are revamping its facilities to cover the demand in 2019 and 2020”, Ron explains.

But there is no news about projects for mount new corn ethanol plants. “Currently the corn ethanol prices around 0.54 dollar; this is a real competitive price against fossil fuels, but these prices don’t permit to thinking in investments for new plants, only to expand the capacity of the current ones”, Ron opines.

Also, there are rumors that Government is thinking to go out of the mandatory blend scheme to a free market one, where biofuels compete with fossil fuels in the gas station. Otherwise, only to raise the blend to 15% will be the only way to expand this added value industry.

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