USDA will publish its corn S&D update on Friday—the first official look at crop production and use since Dec. 11. Exports and utilization for ethanol may be due for adjustment.
During the government shutdown, USDA continued to report on grains inspected for export. For 2018/19 through Jan 24, 21.5 million metric tons of corn have been inspected, 56 percent more than last season to date. Inspections have generally been stronger this January than they were a year ago, although for the most recent week they were lower year over year. This strong shipment pace may mean that 2018/19 exports will be increased from the 2.45 billion bushels estimated back in December.
Higher exports may be offset by a reduction to the volume of corn used for ethanol, however. Ethanol production during November totaled 1.32 billion gallons, down 3 percent from November 2017—and the first notable YOY decline in a long time. December and January production will likely continue the lower trend. We estimate December production was about 2 percent lower from a year ago, and during the first four weeks of January, we saw production average 1.02 million barrels per day, which is down 1 percent from December’s average and down 2 percent from last January. With these numbers, it looks like corn utilization for ethanol could decline 25 million bushels or more.