DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Increased exports helped push Iowa's ethanol production to a record 3.7 billion gallons in 2011, renewable fuel officials said.
The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/rGruh6 ) that production at the state's 41 ethanol plants increased by about 200 million gallons over last year.
Overall ethanol production in the U.S. is estimated at 13.8 billion gallons in 2011 with foreign demand accounting for about 1 billion gallons of production. Much of the foreign demand has come from Brazil, where a shortfall in the sugar cane crop caused the country to turn to imports for domestic use.
"2011 was certainly a good year for Iowa ethanol producers with increased production and profitability," said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.
"However, we relied on export markets for growth." Shaw said about 1.34 billion bushels of corn, about 62 percent
of Iowa's 2010 corn harvest, were used to make the 3.7 billion gallons of ethanol produced in Iowa.
Iowa's ethanol plants also produced 11.5 million tons of dried distillers grains, a byproduct of the ethanol making process, that is sold for cattle feed, Shaw said.
Export demand and sales of dried distillers grain may be more pronounced for ethanol producers in 2012 as profit margins are expected to narrow with the end of the 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for ethanol producers.
"Margins have been very good lately, but we're expecting a drop early next year," Shaw said.
Figures from Iowa State University show the return for an ethanol producer improved from a loss of 9 cents a gallon in February to a gain of 3 cents in April and as much as 70 cents per gallon last month as corn prices fell 25 percent.
Information from: The Des Moines Register,