INTERVIEW-Russia's PhosAgro sees boom in African fertiliser demand helping prices


* Demand also strong from core importers India, Asia, Latam

* Weaker yuan is long-term challenge for fertiliser producers

* PhosAgro expands production, boosts global trading

LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) - The global fertiliser market will find increasing support in coming years from growing demand in Africa where Chinese, Middle Eastern and U.S. companies invest in agriculture, according to one of the world's largest fertiliser firms.

"Africa will be showing an incredible dynamic in the next five years. Rising demand in Brazil and India will also help clear rising supply of fertilisers," Andrei Guryev, the 35-year-old head of Russia's PhosAgro, said in an interview.

Fertiliser prices crashed after China abolished a seasonal export duty in 2015, flooding the market with new volumes. The drop forced many Chinese firms to cut exports, leading to price stabilisation at around $350 per tonne for key fertiliser diammonium phosphate (DAP).

Guryev said he saw prices fluctuating around the same levels in the next year as China was "maintaining price discipline".

But he said Beijing's policies represented the biggest long-term challenge for the fertiliser market, especially if China decides to weaken the yuan, triggering a new flood of exports and a war for market share.

"But I don't see this happening in the next few years," he said.

Some of the world's biggest importers, such as India and Brazil, have shown solid buying over the past year, which should also help support the market.

"The market looks good and demand has been extraordinary thanks to India and other Asian countries ... Brazil has cut interest rates and the state is extending credit to the agricultural sector again, which is lending support to strong demand," he said.

Fertiliser demand is likely to remain resilient in the face of low grain prices as record crops generally encourage farmers to use more nutrient to help the soil recover, he said.


In Russia, Guryev said he also saw significant demand upside thanks to growth in the agriculture sector.

PhosAgro is launching a new ammonia facility that should produce around 760,000 tonnes a year and will be launching soon a carbamide facility with output of 500,000 tonnes a year after making investments in excess of $1 billion.

As soon as carbamide (urea) production is launched, exports will begin to premium markets including the United States after Washington eased import duties on the Russian product recently.

Guryev said PhosAgro's main focus abroad would be on expanding its trading network, which currently employs about 70 people in Switzerland, France, Germany, Poland and Brazil.

He said the firm was not considering buying chunks of Swiss trading house Louis Dreyfus' fertiliser business as it had no need to purchase infrastructure abroad, with supplies currently managed primarily from Russian ports.

In the future, as output in Russia expands, PhosAgro may need to invest in global hubs, he said. PhosAgro's output of fertilisers is seen rising to 8 million tonnes this year from 7.6 million last year and is set to increase by a fifth by 2020.

Like many other Russian exporters, PhosAgro has benefited from a weakening Russian rouble in the past three years.

Guryev said he expected the currency to ease towards 63-65 per dollar in the next six to 12 months from the current 60 due to lower oil prices and tighter U.S. sanctions.

"It looks like sanctions will stay in place for a long time. But sanctions are not the end of the world. We have been living with them for a few years now and we found a way to develop. Compared to the oil price collapse, sanctions had a much smaller impact on the Russian economy," he said.

"There are a dozen Russian export-oriented companies - oil, coal and metals - that will be developing well. As an investor, I see this as an opportunity to increase my exposure to those sectors."

(Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Dale Hudson)