Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi has asked Brazil’s foreign trade council to impose tariffs on ethanol imports following a surge in shipments from the United States, an official said on Thursday, a move that could stir trade tensions within the Trump administration.
Brazil is the main market for U.S. exports of corn ethanol which have swelled in recent months to fill a gap left by falling domestic output, as cane farmers in the South American country diverted more of their crop to making sugar because of high prices.
Ethanol imports from the United States increased fivefold to a record 720 million litres in the first quarter – worth some $363 million, according to official trade data.
Most of that went to ports in north-eastern Brazil, where ethanol producers are leading calls for the imposition of a 20 percent tariff.
The Agriculture Ministry’s secretary for international relations, Odilson Ribeiro, told Reuters the minister sent the request on Wednesday to the foreign trade chamber, known as Camex, that decides on import and export rules.
The seven-minister council is due to meet on Wednesday when the sugar and ethanol industry lobby UNICA hopes the tariff will be approved, though the body has no deadline to decide.