Eurochem produces first potash at new $2 bln Russian plant

MOSCOW, March 13 (Reuters) – Russia-focused fertiliser producer Eurochem said it has produced its first potash at its new $2 billion Usolskiy plant in Russia.

The project may intensify competition among suppliers of the crop nutrient in the region, traditionally dominated by Russia's monopoly producer Uralkali and Belarusian miner Belaruskali.

Privately-held Eurochem, one of the world's largest producers of nitrogen-based fertilisers, plans to produce the first ready-for-sale potash at its new Russian plant in the second quarter of 2018. By the end of the year, it plans to produce 450,000 tonnes of ready product at the plant.

Eurochem has been actively investing in two potash projects and one ammonia project in recent years. After the start of the Usolskiy plant in March, another – VolgaKaliy – will be launched this summer.

Swiss-based Eurochem, owned by Russian businessman Andrei Melnichenko, has said that the launch of the two potash mines in Russia in 2018 will result in higher core earnings the following year. Eurochem produces fertilisers and crop nutrients in Russia, Belgium and Lithuania.

The first stage of the Usolskiy project has a production capacity of 2.3 million tonnes of potash a year. The company has spent 115 billion roubles ($2 billion) on its construction.

Eurochem expects to produce a total 500,000-600,000 tonnes of potash in 2018.

($1 = 56.8510 roubles)

(Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Polina Ivanova and Alexander Smith)