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October 4, 2013

Ethanol Produced from Corn being Considered in Brazil

Agricultural leaders and politicians in Mato Grosso are struggling with a mountain of corn as they try to put forth a plan for more utilization of corn in the state instead of just shipping the corn to export markets at very high transportation costs. One obvious way to up the utilization rate is to increase the livestock industry in the state. Another more novel way is to use the corn to produce ethanol and then ship out the ethanol. While ethanol produced from corn is common in the U.S., it would be a novelty in a country with more than 400 sugar/ethanol mills that use sugarcane as the raw material.

One of the selling points for using corn to make ethanol would be the production of dry distiller's grain or DDGs, which is a byproduct of using corn. According to the Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea), an ethanol plant that utilizes 500 tons of corn per day would produce 155 tons of DDG. The DDG has up to 32% protein, is a good source of fiber, and can be an alternative to corn in animal rations. Each ton of corn could produce 380 to 400 liters of ethanol in addition to DDGs and corn oil.

While transforming grain protein into animal protein could be an attractive alternative to just exporting the grain, it would only be economically viable in areas where there is an excess of corn and transportation costs are prohibitive.

Utilizing corn to produce ethanol might work in Mato Grosso, which is Brazil's largest corn producing state; it is not considered an alternative in the other big corn-producing state in Brazil which is Parana. The state of Parana already has a large livestock industry and often times needs to import corn from other regions of Brazil to meet their domestic needs. Additionally, the principal grain exporting port in Brazil, which is the Port of Paranagua, is located in the state thus reducing transportation costs to a fraction of what it costs to transport corn out of Mato Grosso. Therefore, any talk of utilizing corn to make ethanol in Parana has quickly been dismissed as non-economical.