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Brazil gasoline imports seen rising fourfold

27 Sep 2011, 3.50 pm GMT

Sao Paulo, 27 September (Argus) — Brazil's state-controlled oil company Petrobras expects its gasoline imports to increase fourfold this year as domestic drivers opt to fill up with gasoline because a poor harvest has boosted ethanol – and flex fuel – prices.

The company imported an average of 7,000 b/d of gasoline in 2010, and in 2011 that volume is rising to 30,000 b/d, Petrobras downstream director Paulo Roberto da Costa said.

Gasoline consumption in Brazil due, in part, to lower-than-expected ethanol output this harvest season. Amid fears of an ethanol shortage in the first quarter of 2012, Brazil's government chose to lower the blend of ethanol in gasoline to 20pc, down from 25pc, beginning 1 October.

Last week, ethanol prices were up in 19 of 27 Brazilian states, according to the National Petroleum Agency (ANP). Once the price of ethanol surpasses 70pc of the price of gasoline, car owners begin to migrate to the conventional fuel.

As it stands, it only makes sense for motorists with flex-fuel cars to use ethanol in two states – Mato Grosso and Goias, according to the ANP.

Brazil's strong automobile sales and growing middle class have helped boost demand for fuel by 6.6pc in the first half of this year.

During the first eight months of 2011, car and light commercial vehicle sales increased by 7.5pc on a year-over-year basis to 2.37mn units, according to the Brazilian Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association.

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