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CHICAGO/MOSCOW, July 12 (Reuters) - U.S. trader Bunge said it would focus its Russian grain trading on its Azov Sea export terminal near the southern city of Rostov-on-Don in an effort to boost efficiency.
Grain traders have struggled with rising competition in Russia, one of the world's largest wheat exporters, in recent years, while their trading margins have also been squeezed.
Bunge's move highlights rising competition in deep-water ports in Russia's part of the Black Sea, from which traders supply grain by large ships to customers such as Egypt, the world's largest wheat importer.
The shallow-water ports of the Azov Sea usually supply grain by smaller ships to customers like Turkey.
"Concentrating operations on a company-owned shallow water port terminal could give the advantage of low costs for niche business," one trader said.
Bunge is the "B" of the so-called ABCDs of global grain trading, which also include rivals Archer Daniels Midland Co , Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Co.
"Bunge is re-focusing and consolidating its Russian grain origination activities in Rostov-on-Don, where we have an export terminal, helping us achieve greater efficiencies," Bunge spokeswoman Susan Burns said.
Bunge has already closed offices in Russia's Black Sea port of Novorossiisk and in Yeisk. It will also close the office in Stavropol this autumn, while its office in Voronezh will remain open for seeds origination, but not for grain purchases.
"Russia will remain an important origin for Bunge, and we remain committed to having an asset footprint," Burns said.
Bunge, which also has a sunflower oil plant in Russia and a grain terminal in Ukraine, was Russia's 14th largest grain exporter in the 2016/17 marketing year, which ended on June 30, with a 2 percent share, or 723,000 tonnes, the state Grain Quality Service said.
The bulk of Bunge's supplies go through shallow-water ports.
"To make money in the increasingly competitive Russian export sector you need a critical mass of high volume business. It is thought that Bunge's deep-sea exports have been too small a volume in recent years," a German trader said.
"It looks like overhead costs are being reduced and more niche business will be developed," the trader added. (Reporting by Karl Plume and Polina Devitt; Additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg; Editing by Dmitry Solovyov and Alexander Smith)