* Details on precise stake, deal value not immediately clear
* Once source says COFCO may pay up to $2 billion for majority control
* Deal will give China access to S.American grain, oilseed supplies (Adds details, quotes)
By Naveen Thukral and Denny Thomas
SINGAPORE/HONG KONG, Feb 27 (Reuters) - China’s COFCO Corp is in advanced talks to buy a stake in Dutch grain trader Nidera, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday, in a move that would help the world’s most populous country secure food supplies.
This deal - which would mark the first major stake purchase in a trading house by a state-owned Chinese agricultural company - will give the country direct access to South American grain and oilseed supplies.
The precise stake and the amount that China’s largest state-owned grain trader was looking to pay for Nidera was not immediately clear.
One Asia-based source told Reuters that COFCO may pay up to $2 billion for majority control of the privately run company.
The Wall Street Journal said last month that COFCO was in talks to buy a minority stake in Nidera valued at around $250 million, citing a person familiar with the deal. The paper said it was not clear how much COFCO was offering to pay.
COFCO did not respond to calls and email seeking confirmation of the deal. Nidera did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.
“The key aim of this deal is South American soybean supplies,” the Asia-based source said.
“COFCO has huge in-house demand for soybeans.”
COFCO is China’s biggest grain trading company and has expanded operations into downstream activities such as milling, soybean crushing and pig breeding.
Nidera is a global producer and trader of agricultural commodities with operations in more than 20 countries, including in South America. It deals in grains, oilseeds, vegetable oils, oilseed meals, agricultural inputs and bio-energy products.
China is looking for new sources of food supplies to feed a growing demand for high-protein products fuelled by rising incomes. China’s meat demand is climbing fast and it needs feed grains such as soybean meal and corn to fatten animals.
Last year, China’s Shuanghui International Holdings bought U.S. pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc, in the largest ever acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm.
China, which accounts for 60 percent of soybeans traded across the world, is emerging as a leading importer of corn.
The country’s corn shipments are likely to nearly double to 5 million tonnes in 2013/14 from a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
It is also expected to become as the world’s top wheat buyer in the year to June 2014 after adverse weather damaged the domestic crop last year. (Additional reporting by Chris Stebbins in Chicago and Sara Webb in Amsterdam; Editing by Michael Flaherty and Himani Sarkar)