Russia's Basic Element to start trading grain
* Says can export up to 0.5 mln T of grain in 2013
* Says will use the Black Sea ports
* Owns farm in Russia's key grain export region
By Polina Devitt
MOSCOW, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska's vehicle Basic Element (BasEl), a longtime investor in agriculture, has decided to start trading grain, aiming to sell direct to world markets instead of through Louis Dreyfus and Glencore.
"Basic Element plans to create its own trading structure in order to improve the efficiency of its agribusiness and to get an additional profit," a spokesman for BasEl told Reuters on Monday.
Oleg Deripaska is one of Russia's richest men, and is the biggest shareholder of aluminium giant RUSAL, part of which is also owned by Glencore.
Deripaska is increasing his focus on agriculture and grain markets at a time when global wheat prices are up more than 40 percent since mid-June after drought hurt crops across the globe and have fanned fears of a global food crisis.
Wheat production from the Black Sea-region producing countries - Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, which normally supply a quarter of world wheat export volumes - is expected to drop 30 percent this year to 70 million tonnes because of a drought, according to Reuters poll.
In particular Russia, historically number the world's three global wheat exporter by volume, is expected to decrease its 2012 wheat harvest to 45.5 million tonnes, well short of 2011's crop of 56 million.
But Russia, with the world's fourth-largest expanse of arable land and huge potential for modernisation in the agriculture industry, is trying to position itself long term to double grain exports and grab a bigger share of growing world food demand.
The spokesman did not say who will be the head of the trading structure and what name it will get. Andrey Oleinik is head of BasEl's agribusiness now.
BasEl is not the only Russian industrial group seeking to expand its footprint in agribusiness.
Ambitious Russian port investor Summa Capital beat it to a 50 percent stake in United Grain Co, when the Russian state grain trader was privatised, and BasEl is likely to find itself competing with Summa's Swiss-based trader Soyuz Commodities.
Soyuz at the weekend won a part of first international purchase by Egypt, the world's biggest wheat importer, since the start of this marketing year. Egypt's General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) agreed to by 60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat from Soyuz.
The government wants to see Russian grain exports double to 40-50 million tonnes in the coming decades, up from last year's 27 million tonnes. To achieve those targets, it will need billions of dollars of investment to turn around its infrastructure.
BasEl was bidding to participate in construction of a Black Sea grain export terminal on the Taman peninsula, a rival to a nearby outlet planned by UGC, and says it may play more active role in Russia's infrastructure in future.
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