The early lead in crush, up by 22 percent for the first two months of the campaign, has dwindled to “just” 8.1 percent. From April through mid-July, center-south plants crushed an impressive 267 MMT of cane, but with the sugar share of that at just 36 percent—down nearly 12 points from a year ago—cumulative sugar output was down 14.5 percent at 12.14 MMT.

Thanks to an ethanol share of 64 percent of cane, all ethanol output was up 41.3 percent at 13.45 billion liters. In the first half of July, the sugar share did climb slightly, to 38 percent, up from 50 percent YoY. Crush for that period, though, was down from a year prior by some 6.5 percent. As a result, only 2.39 MMT of sugar were produced in that time, down 23.3 percent from 3.11 MMT in the first half of June 2017. Ethanol production was still up YoY by more than a quarter.

Lower prices and pressure on margins can mean reduced investment and maintenance and even idling for plants. Cane could see reduced husbandry and a lower replanting rate. All this is supporting suggestions that the next crop could be smaller, with crush falling for a third straight year. Total ethanol sales, at least, remain strong, up 17 percent YoY; all the growth there corresponds to sales of hydrous ethanol, used as E100 vehicle fuel.

Brazil monthly ethanol exports

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