BRASILIA, BRAZIL — Brazil’s ethanol sector booms on increased corn production and investments, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Brazilian Corn Ethanol Union (UNEM) forecasts the country to produce about 2.5 billion liters of corn-based ethanol in the 2020-21 marketing year.

Currently, there are 16 corn ethanol plants in Brazil and at least four are corn-only plants, while the rest are flex plants that produce ethanol from both sugarcane and corn.

Due to plentiful and generally cheap corn supplies in Brazil, at least seven other corn-based ethanol plants in the planning, development to construction stage, which are expected to come online in the next two years according to the USDA.

Brazil’s corn ethanol production could total 5.5 billion liters per year, consuming 13 million tonnes of corn annually, if all ongoing ethanol plant construction projects are completed. The plants are slated to begin operations in 2021 or 2022.

In 2019, the USDA estimates Brazil produced 37.38 billion liters of ethanol, 96% of which came from sugarcane. It produced 1.33 billion liters of corn ethanol in 2019 but the USDA anticipates it to total 8 billion liters by 2028.

While utilizing corn in ethanol is a small-but-growing fraction of the Brazilian corn ethanol industry it is expected to grow quickly over the next decade.

“The sector’s investors hope corn ethanol can become an important part of Brazil’s biofuels equation, as the country’s consumption of ethanol is expected to grow at the same time corn production is set to expand,” the USDA said.