RABAT, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The world's leading phosphate exporter, Morocco's Office Cherifien de Phosphate (OCP), has started production at a new fertilizer plant dedicated to the African market, the state news agency MAP reported on Monday.
OCP invested 5.3 billion dirhams ($537 million) in the plant in the Jorf Lasfar area, on the Atlantic coast, MAP reported.
The plant, inaugurated by the Moroccan king on Monday, includes units that can produce 1 million tonnes of fertilizer, 1.4 million tonnes of sulfuric acid and 450,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid annually.
Moroccan companies, including banks and insurers, have been investing aggressively in Sub-Saharan Africa. OCP has already signed agreements with governments and firms there.
The plant is another step in OCP's strategy to increase fertilizer production to 12 million tonnes by 2017 -- up from 4.5 million tonnes in 2010 -- and become the world's top producer.
The company is building three other units in the same hub with a capacity to produce 1 million tonnes of fertilizer each, it said.
OCP, a major earner of foreign currency for Morocco, posted a 66 percent jump in net profit for the first half of 2015 to 3.99 billion dirhams, helped by a strong U.S. dollar.
It has invested heavily and made a series of acquisitions to improve its infrastructure and boost its output. It aims to raise output to 47 million tonnes of crude phosphate rock in 2017, from around 34 million tonnes in 2013.
OCP agreed last year to buy U.S.-headquartered Bunge's 50-percent stake in their Moroccan fertiliser joint venture Bunge Maroc Phosphore S.A. for an undisclosed amount.
It has also signed an agreement to buy a 10 percent stake in Brazil-based company Fertilizantes Heringer S.A for 145 million Brazilian real ($36 million). ($1 = 9.8758 Moroccan dirham) ($1 = 3.9779 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by Katharine Houreld)