UPDATE 1-U.S. opens probe of phosphate fertilizer imports from Morocco, Russia

(Adds details from statement)

WASHINGTON, July 17 (Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department said on Friday it had opened an investigation into whether producers of phosphate fertilizers in Morocco and Russia are receiving unfair subsidies.

Last year, imports of phosphate fertilizers from Morocco were valued at about $729 million and from Russia at about $299 million, the department said in a statement.

U.S.-based Mosaic Co filed the petitions.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) will conduct its own investigation into whether American industry is being harmed by the fertilizer imports. The ITC will make its preliminary findings by Aug. 10, the department said.

If the ITC issues a preliminarily finding that the imports are hurting U.S. industry, then the Commerce Department’s investigations will continue. The department said its initial findings are scheduled for Sept. 21. (Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Richard Chang)