Argentina finds new biodiesel buyers in Germany
* Germany seen replacing Spain as Argentina's No. 1 buyer
* Madrid barred non-EU biodiesel imports in April
* Analysts say German producers will supply Spain
By Nicolás Misculin and Maximiliano Rizzi
BUENOS AIRES, July 26 (Reuters) - Germany has replaced Spain as the biggest buyer of biodiesel from top global exporter Argentina after Madrid curbed purchases from the South American country, industry sources say.
Spain barred imports of biodiesel produced outside the European Union in April in retaliation for Argentina's decision to seize control of energy company YPF from Spain's Repsol. [ID:ID:nL2E8FG98O]
Spain is still receiving shipments of the soy-based fuel from Argentina but, once the delivery of previously contracted shipments is completed, it will depend on fellow European countries and on reviving local plants to meet its needs.
Additional shipments bound for Germany will allow the country and other members of the European Union to supply the Spanish market without running down their stocks, analysts say.
"Today, Germany is the biggest market for Argentine biodiesel," said Gustavo Idigoras, an Argentine biofuels analyst and former government agricultural attache in Brussels.
"It's reasonable to think that Germany will channel some of its output to Spain. The other European countries can cover their blend needs with imported biodiesel," Idigoras added.
Last year, Italy was the second-biggest buyer of Argentine biodiesel followed by Peru and the Netherlands -- where the port of Rotterdam is the entry point to Germany, government data shows.
In the first six months of the year, Argentina's biodiesel exports to the 27-country EU rose 32 percent from the same period a year earlier to 840,000 tonnes, according to Hamburg-based oilseeds analysts Oil World.
The European Union remains by far the biggest market for Argentina, which shipped a total of almost 900,000 tonnes of biodiesel in the first half of 2012 for some $1.03 billion, according to industry data.
About 20 percent of Argentine shipments were bound for Rotterdam.
In the same period in 2011, 12 percent of Argentine exports passed through the port, official data shows. Industry analysts say data in the second half of this year will likely show a deepening of that trend.
Spain remained the biggest buyer for Argentine biodiesel between January and June, accounting for 58 percent of shipments, according to private-sector data, but its share of imports is set to plunge as orders made before Spain's rule change are delivered.
"Shipments to Spain are expected to decline in the coming months to the point of becoming almost insignificant," the Carbio industry group said in a statement on Wednesday.
SEARCH FOR NEW MARKETS
Last year, Argentina's exports of the plant-based fuel reached 1.7 million tonnes or $2.09 billion, Carbio said.
Just over half of that went to Spain, and the Spanish biodiesel industry had long lobbied for measures to protect it from cheaper Argentine imports. YPF's nationalization proved the trigger for the move, which Buenos Aires has raised at the World Trade Organization.
Argentine producers hope President Cristina Fernandez will soon raise the compulsory blend requirement for diesel sold domestically to 10 percent from the current 7 percent as a way to boost local demand.
But they are also eager to find alternative markets abroad.
"There is always a search for new markets although it's not easy ... Prices aren't as firm as they were due to the economic situation in Europe," said Alfredo Langesfeld, head of the Cader industry group that represents smaller producers.
Spain needs about 1.8 million tonnes of biodiesel to comply with its fuel blend requirement in 2012, according to the nation's APPA producers' association.
According to Idigoras, Spain has received more supply bids than it needs, "most of them from European countries such as Germany, Italy and France".
Export prices for Argentine biodiesel have fallen 5 percent between May and mid-July to just over $1,100 per tonne, according to official data, but industry sources said Spain would end up paying more to meet its needs.
"The Spanish will get their biodiesel at a higher price, from Germany for sure, and we're going to sell our product to Germany for less," an official from Argentina's biodiesel export industry said on condition of anonymity. (Additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Dale Hudson)
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