* Petrobras imports gasoline as demand surge
* Company says purchase “good deal” for country (Recasts with Petrobras statement, adds details, background)
SAO PAULO, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Brazil’s state-controlled oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA)(PBR.N) said on Wednesday it is importing gasoline to ensure supplies to the domestic market after a spike in demand for the motor fuel.
Demand for gasoline in Brazil has jumped on falling production of sugar cane ethanol, which in Brazil is often used as an alternative fuel for cars, as heavy rains cut into the sugar crop.
The government last year to cut the required ethanol blend of in motor gasoline to 20 percent from 25 percent as ethanol supplies waned.
Petrobras said in a statement that it “has been taking advantage of opportunities (for good) prices, quality and time frames in various supply markets to guarantee gasoline supply throughout the country” to meet greater demand spurred by change in blend requirements.
It did not specify how much it paid for the fuel or where it bought from.
About 2 million barrels of gasoline from Venezuela were expected to arrive in Brazil before the end of February, the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo reported on Wednesday. It estimated the cost of the purchase at about $140 million.
Oil exporter Venezuela has itself struggled to maintain fuel supplies to its own market, and imported fuel throughout last year to meet growing demand fuel needed for thermoelectric generation. [ID:nN17127861]
Combined domestic sales of gasoline, diesel and ethanol in Brazil rose 3 percent last year, driven by a 24 percent surge in ethanol purchases, according to a research report by Espirito Santo’s Brazilian equity research team.
Brazil has been “gasoline self-sufficient” over the past four decades since the start of a program that helped amplify the use of ethanol as a fuel for automobiles, Estado said, citing former Petrobras executive Ildo Sauer. The country still imports diesel.
About 90 percent of all new cars in Brazil are so-called flex fuel vehicles that can ran on any mix of gasoline or ethanol, giving consumers the choice to switch back and forth as prices fluctuate.
Petrobras’ nonvoting shares (PETR4.SA), the company’s most widely traded class of stock, jumped 1.4 percent to 34.24 reais in Sao Paulo on Wednesday. (Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; additional reporting by Camila Moreira in Sao Paulo; Editing by David Gregorio)