Brazil forecasts record ethanol production in 2008

BRASILIA (AFP) – Brazilian officials forecast on Tuesday record sugar cane crops and record ethanol production for 2008 that will boost exports of ethanol by more than 23 percent.

The Agriculture Ministry forecast that Brazil is expected to produce between 15 and 19 percent more ethanol than in 2007, or up to 27,400 million liters.

Of that, ethanol exports are forecast to reach 4,200 million liters, up from the current 3,400 million liters a year.

Sugar cane production will also set historic records, expected to increase between nine and 13 percent over last year’s production.

Brazil is the world’s leading ethanol producer, with the bulk of its production going to the internal market as fuel or additive for gasoline.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva dismissed as an “absurd distortion” on Tuesday talk that the global food crisis is due to the boom in crops dedicated to ethanol production.

According to the agriculture ministry, a mere 2.8 percent of Brazil’s agricultural land is dedicated to sugar cane production, mainly destined for ethanol.