SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA, US — US ethanol producer POET said on March 23 that it has suspended corn buying at seven of its 27 plants as biofuel demand weakens due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has led many states to issue stay-at-home orders to try to stop the virus from spreading.

POET said it has temporarily stopped purchasing corn at three plants in Minnesota and two each in Iowa and South Dakota.

“POET has not idled any biorefineries; however, we have temporarily ceased corn purchases at a number of locations and are actively evaluating biofuel production levels to reflect falling gasoline demand,” Jessica Sexe, a spokeswoman for POET, told Reuters.

Adding to the problem is an ongoing oil price war initiated by Saudi Arabia and Russia that has driven down ethanol prices.

POET purchases 5% of the nation’s corn and produces 2 billion gallons of ethanol when running at full capacity.