Brazil 1Q tallow exports triple on long-term contracts

  • Market: Agriculture, Biofuels, Oil products
  • 22/04/24

Brazilian beef tallow exports totaled 73,930 metric tonnes (t) in the first quarter, a three-fold increase from the same three-month period in 2023 on rising demand.

Almost 93pc of outflows between January and March were shipped to the US, according to data from Brazil's trade ministry.

Long-term contracts explain the rising flow of exports, even though spot market arbitrage was closed throughout the first quarter (see chart). The price of tallow in the Paranagua and Santos ports was $960/t fob on 19 April, keeping the arbitrage closed to US Gulf coast buyers, where the reference product was at $901/t on a delivered inland basis.

Brazilian tallow is also negotiated at a premium against soybean oil, which closed at $882/t fob Paranagua on 19 April. This scenario has been observed since the 1 December 2023 start of Argus' tallow export price assessment.

Historically, vegetable oil in Brazil was traded at a discount to tallow, but strong demand has boosted the price of animal fat. Some biodiesel plants have been purchasing used cooking oil (UCO) or pork fat as an alternative.

In 2023, there were doubts about whether the outflow of tallow from Brazil would be constant. Market participants now believe that the 2024 start of operations at new renewable diesel refineries in the US should sustain exports.

Local suppliers that have already signed supply guarantee contracts — some up to three years — with American buyers are also considering export opportunities with Asia, including a new renewable diesel plant in Singapore that could receive Brazilian cargoes.

Expansion projects are propelling US demand, including work that would bring capacity at Marathon Petroleum's Martinez Renewables plants in California to 2.35mn m³/y (40,750 b/d)and the Phillips 66 Rodeo unit in northern Californiato 3mn m³/y. These and other new projects will increase annual US demand for tallow by 5mn t.

Maintenance on the horizon

Maintenance at US refineries has Brazilian sellers bracing for a short-term drop in prices. Between May and June the Diamond Green Diesel (DGD) unit in Port Arthur, Texas, will shut down for maintenance, a stoppage that could impact demand for Brazilian inputs.

Market participants have already observed a slight increase in domestic tallow supply, a change they attribute to maintenance at DGD.

The advance of the soybean crop in Argentina is also expected to increase the supply of feedstocks to North American plants, as some refineries are returning to soybean oil after a hiatus of several years. The soybean oil quote on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) is an important reference for the price of tallow.

Renewable feedstocks in Brazil on fob basis R/t

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