Economic and production indicators
Ethanol production in Brazil uses sugarcane as feedstock and relies on first-generation technologies based on the use of the sucrose content of sugarcane. Ethanol yield has grown 3.77% per year since 1975 and productivity gains been based on improvements in the agricultural and industrial phases of the production process. Further improvements on best practices are expected to allow in the short to mid-term an average ethanol productivity of 9,000 liters per hectare.
There were 378 ethanol plants operating in Brazil by July 2008, 126 dedicated to ethanol production and 252 producing both sugar and ethanol. There are 15 additional plants dedicated exclusively to sugar production. These plants have an installed capacity of crushing 538 million metric tons of sugarcane per year, and there are 25 plants under construction expected to be on line by 2009 that will add an additional capacity of crushing 50 million tons of sugarcane per year. The typical plant cost approximately USD 150 million and requires a nearby sugarcane plantation of 30,000 hectares
Production by harvest year 1990/91 to 2007/08, Green is hydrated ethanol (E100) and yellow is anhydrous ethanol use for gasohol blending.
For the 2008/09 harvest it is expected that about 44% of the sugarcane will be used for sugar, 1% for alcoholic beverages, and 55% for ethanol production.
An estimate of between 24.9 billion liters (6.58 billion U.S. liquid gallons) to 27.1 billion liters (7.16 billion gallons) of
ethanol are expected to be produced in 2008/09 harvest year, with most of the production being destined for the internal market, and only 4.2 billion liters (1.1 billion gallons) for exports, with an estimated 2.5 billion liters (660 million gallons) destined for the US market.Sugarcane cultivated area grew from 7 million to 7.8 million hectares of land from 2007 to 2008, mainly using abandoned pasture lands.
2009-2011 Supply Shortage
Since 2009 the Brazilian ethanol industry has experienced financial stress due to the credit crunch caused by the economic crisis of 2008; poor sugarcane harvests due to unfavorable weather; high sugar prices in the world market that made more attractive to produce sugar rather than ethanol; and other domestic factors that resulted in a decline of its annual production despite a growing demand in the local market. Brazilian ethanol fuel production in 2011 was 21.1 billion liters (5.6 billion U.S. liquid gallons), down from 26.2 million liters (6.9 billion gallons) in 2010. A supply shortage took place for several months during 2010 and 2011, and prices climbed to the point that ethanol fuel was no longer attractive for owners of flex-fuel vehicles; the government reduced the minimum ethanol blend in gasoline to reduce demand and keep ethanol fuel prices from rising further; and for the first time since the 1990s, ethanol fuel was imported from the United States.