Brazil's Center-South H2 Dec cane crush at season-low 2.556 million mt: UNICA

Houston (Platts)--12 Jan 2018 959 am EST/1459 GMT

Brazil's Center-South region crushed a season-low 2.556 million mt of sugarcane in the second half of December, down 75.5% from 10.445 million mt in the first half of December and the lowest half-month output since the season started in April, industry association UNICA said Friday.

The latest crush volume was also down 18.1% from 3.121 million mt in the same period a year ago and was the lowest amount crushed in a December 16-31 period since 920,000 mt in 2011.

The 2017-18 sugarcane season started April 1 in the Center-South, the largest sugarcane and sugar-producing region in the world.

Total recoverable sugar, or ATR, was 145.74 kg/mt of cane in H2 December, up 15.2% from 126.5 kg/mt in H1 December and up 16.3% on the year from 125.34 kg/mt.

The percentage of cane used to produce sugar was a season-low 31.25% in H2 December, down from 40.17% in H1 December and 35.28% in H2 December 2016.

The balance was used to produce ethanol.

"The 2017-18 harvest is practically closed in the Center-South region, since only four production units remain in operation after January 1," said Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, technical director of UNICA.

"The amount of sugarcane that will be processed in March, in turn, will depend on the climatic conditions to be observed in this off-season," he said.

In the same period a year earlier, 15 mills were still working after January 1.

There were an estimated 271 sugar mills operating this season, according to Kingsman, the agricultural analysis unit of S&P Global Platts, down from the 271 mills that operated in 2016-17.

In H2 December, sugar production was at a season-low 111,000 mt, down 78.1% from 506,000 mt produced in H1 December and down 15.6% from 131,000 mt produced a year earlier. It was the lowest amount produced between December 16 and December 31 since 2012 when 110,000 mt was produced.

Production of ethanol was also at a season-low 189 million liters, down 61.8% from 495 million liters in H1 December, but up 12.3% year on year from 169 million liters.

Hydrous production fell to 183.24 million liters, down 47.8% from 351 million liters in H1 December but up 56.2% from 117 million liters produced a year earlier.

The balance -- 6.15 million liters -- was anhydrous, down 88% from 51 million liters produced in the same period a year ago.

Ethanol production includes a small volume of ethanol made from feedstock corn. In H2 December, corn ethanol output was at a season-high 36.67 million liters, including 32.14 million liters of hydrous and 4.53 million liters of anhydrous.

Cumulative ATR for the season was 137.32 kg/mt, up 2.6% from 133.85 kg/mt a year ago and the highest cumulative ATR, up to December 31, since 137.64 kg/mt in the 2011-12 season.

From April through December, the cumulative sugarcane crush in CS Brazil is 583.39 million mt, down 1.5% from 592.05 million mt crushed a year ago.

CS mills have produced 35.823 million mt of sugar since April, up 1.7% from 35.21 million mt a year ago and a record high for the first nine months of a season.

Mills have allocated more cane to sugar production this season, with 46.93% being diverted to sugar, up from 46.63% in the same period a year earlier.

Despite the lower percentage directed to ethanol, cumulative production of the biofuel is at 25.223 billion liters this season, up 1.2% year on year from 24.915 billion liters.

Hydrous ethanol output amounted to 14.565 billion liters, up 1.3% from 14.373 billion liters produced a year ago.

Cumulative anhydrous production is at 10.658 billion liters, up 1.1% from 10.543 billion liters a year earlier.

Since the 2017-18 season started, corn ethanol output totaled 319.109 million liters, up from 140.49 million liters in the first nine months of the 2016-17 season.

Ethanol sales in December were at a five-month low 2.322 billion liters, but up 9.5% from 2.12 billion liters sold in the year-ago month.

Roughly 96.4% of the total ethanol sold in December, or 2.239 billion liters, went to the domestic market, while 83.171 million liters were exported.

Since April, 19.99 billion liters have been sold, down 1.9% from 20.38 billion liters sold a year ago.

Of the total sold this season, 11.95 billion liters were hydrous ethanol, while the remaining 8.04 billion liters were anhydrous. In the same period a year earlier, 12.07 billion liters were hydrous and 8.31 billion liters were anhydrous.

Hydrous ethanol is mostly used as fuel in flex-fuel vehicles and competes with gasoline at the pump. Anhydrous is blended with gasoline at a 27% ratio, according to a national mandate. Both products are also used in industry.

--Tyler Godwin,

--Edited by Dan Lalor,

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