By Ahmed Eljechtimi
RABAT, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Moroccan phosphate producer OCP Group expects a planned $1.3 billion ammonia plant in Nigeria to start producing in late 2023, a senior company official said on Thursday.
The plant will be built in southeast Nigeria where gas suppliers have been identified, Mohammed Hettiti, head of OCP Nigeria, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Rabat, without giving details.
The factory is part of OCP's push to step up investment in phosphates-based fertilisers in Africa. It has plans for other plants in Ethiopia and Ghana.
The factory, with annual production capacity of 750,000 tonnes of ammonia and 1 million tonnes of fertilisers, would export ammonia to Morocco's plant in Jorf Lasfar, while Morocco would supply phosphoric acid to make fertiliser, he said.
OCP, which already supplies more than 90% of Nigerian fertiliser demand, signed a protocol agreement in June 2018 to build the plant with Nigeria's Sovereign Investment Authority.
Hettiti said OCP aimed to boost fertiliser supply to Nigeria to 3 million tonnes from 1 million tonnes in the next five years.
The phosphate company, which is 95% state-owned, has also started building three blenders worth $40 million to supply customised fertilisers to Nigeria. "They are expected to be operational next year," he said.
OCP, which has 12 subsidiaries in Africa, reported a 17% rise in half-year net profit to 1.79 billion dirhams ($185 million) from the same period last year, as higher prices and demand for phosphoric acid helped offset lower prices for fertilisers and phosphate rock. (Reporting by Ahmed El Jechtimi; Editing by Edmund Blair)