TASHKENT, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Japan’s Balcom Co. Ltd has bought a minority stake in Uzbek agricultural chemicals producer Ifoda Agro Kimyo Himoya for $10 million, the Uzbek company told Reuters on Monday.

The Central Asian nation started opening up its economy in 2017, but direct foreign investment deals by private companies have so far been rare as international financial organisations led the way.

Ifoda is Uzbekistan’s largest producer of complex fertilizers and plant protection products. The company produces about 100,000 tonnes of agricultural chemicals per year at its facility in Namangan province.

The Uzbek firm, which reported 211.1 billion Uzbek sums (about $20 million) in sales last year and was advised by Central Asia-focused Bluestone Investment Bank, said in a statement it would use the fresh funds to accelerate its growth and boost exports.

Balcom is a privately-held, diversified Japanese holding that operates businesses across automotives, real estate, hospitality and other industries.

(Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov Writing by Olzhas Auyezov Editing by Gareth Jones)

((olzhas.auyezov@thomsonreuters.com; +7 727 2508 500; Reuters Messaging: olzhas.auyezov.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))