Argentine biodiesel industry says US duties will halt exports

(Reuters) — Argentine biodiesel exports will be priced out of the US market, its leading industry body said, after Washington decided on Tuesday to impose steep duties on imports that it said were unfairly subsidized.

The countervailing duties on soy-based Argentina biodiesel could be as much as 64.17%, according to a statement from the US Commerce Department. Duties of up to 68.28% will be imposed on palm oil biodiesel imports from Indonesia.

"Any duty of more than 15% leaves Argentine biodiesel out of the market," an Argentine biofuels industry source said.

Argentina accounts for two-thirds of US biodiesel imports, which totaled 916 MMgal in 2016, according to US government data. Total US biodiesel consumption is about 2 Bgal.

The Commerce Department's decision comes after the US National Biodiesel Board (NBB) asked the government in March to impose duties, claiming the imports were below market value and undercutting US biodiesel producers.

Argentine biodiesel association Carbio, which represents producers including Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Co, denied there were subsidies on the country's biodiesel exports and called the duties protectionist.

"The compensatory duties imposed result in an immediate stoppage of sales to the United States, with a clear detriment to the entire soybean chain in Argentina," Carbio President Luis Zubizarreta said in a statement.

NBB, whose members include Archer Daniels Midland Co, said any supplies lost due to a halt in imports could be made up by increased production in the United States, where total capacity is more than 4 billion gallons.

FUEL PRICE EFFECT

Rival US trade group Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) said the duties would raise fuel prices.

The duties could mean US industry would have to replace 250 MMgal of biodiesel for this year and up to 500 MMgal for 2018, Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist with INTL FCStone, said in a daily note.

"This is expected to be bullish soyoil and canola oil near-term to incentivize processing of soybeans and canola," Suderman said in the note.

The duties need to be upheld by the International Trade Commission, which would lock them in place for five years.

Prices for the biomass-based diesel fuel credits (D4) known as RINs surged to the highest levels of the year in the wake of the decision, climbing to $1.17 each, up from $1.11 earlier on Tuesday, according to two traders. Fears of decreased imports boosted prices for the credits earned by US fuel blenders.

Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said Jakarta is currently studying the US decision and plans to log an objection.

"We have proven that the subsidy element does not exist," Lukita told reporters in Jakarta.

Indonesia exported 420,000 kiloliters of biodiesel to the United States in 2016, according to data from the country's biodiesel producers association, jumped from 270,000 kiloliters a year ago.

Reporting by Michael Hirtzer; Additional reporting by Eric Walsh in Washington, Jarrett Renshaw in New York, Maximiliano Rizzi and Caroline Stauffer in Buenos Aires, Julie Ingwersen in Chicago and Bernadette Christina in Jakarta; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler

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