WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. – U.S. ethanol exports through June are up 33% compared to a year ago, and are on pace to break the record set in 2017, said the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), citing government data.

Exports stood at 927.7 million gallons at the end of June. Last year, a total of 1.38 billion gallons of U.S. ethanol was exported.

Brazil is the leading market, receiving about 37% of total shipments or 345.9 million gallons. Exports were up 28% compared to the first half of 2017.

Canada is the second-leading export market at 159.5 million gallons, an increase of 8% from last year.

Other top markets for the first half of 2018 were India (70.1 million gallons), China (52.9 million gallons), South Korea (44.5 million gallons), and the Philippines (43.7 million gallons).

RFA said that 99% of the exports to China occurred in the first three months of the year, and fuel ethanol exports to the country collapsed to zero in the second quarter as a result of increased tariffs.

“Booming exports have played a crucial role in balancing the supply-demand equation for U.S. ethanol,” said Geoff Cooper, the RFA’s executive vice-president. “The wave of RFS small refiner exemptions secretly issued by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has caused softer demand in the domestic market, as reflected by ethanol blend rates that are below year-ago levels. Thus, continuing to grow export demand has never been more important; we are encouraged that foreign buyers are increasingly recognizing the tremendous value of U.S. ethanol as the lowest-cost and cleanest source of octane available on the world market.”