In an effort to strengthen its presence in South America, Mosaic Company will buy the fertilizer unit of Brazilian company Vale SA for $2.5 billion.

Mosaic officials expect that the deal will make it the leading fertilizer production and distribution company in Brazil, one of the world's pre-eminent agricultural markets. It would also almost double the company's employment.

"This acquisition provides Mosaic a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the fast-growing Brazilian agricultural market and from improving business conditions," said Mosaic President and CEO Joc O'Rourke in a statement.

Mosaic — a global producer of phosphate and potash crop nutrients based in Plymouth — intends to fund the acquisition with $1.25 billion in cash raised through the issuance of debt and about 42 million shares of its common stock (about 11 percent of Mosaic's outstanding shares), O'Rourke said. Vale would become Mosaic's largest shareholder and receive two seats on the company's board.

The business being acquired — Vale Fertilizantes — includes five Brazilian phosphate rock mines, four chemical and fertilizer production facilities and one potash facility. The deal also includes Vale's 40 percent economic interest in a phosphate mine in Peru and its potash project in Saskatchewan, Canada.

The deal will add about 8,000 workers, boosting Mosaic's global employment total to nearly 17,000.

It also will add significant Brazilian expertise in an important and growing market, said Rich Mack, Mosaic's executive vice president and chief financial officer.

"As commodity and crop nutrition markets improve, Mosaic will have the ability to meaningfully outperform our competition and generate shareholder value," he said.

Vale is primarily a mining company and one of the world's largest producers of nickel and of iron ore, with revenue of $7.3 billion and net income of $575 million in the third quarter of 2016.

The company decided in 2011 that mining and fertilizers would be its core business, but CEO Murilo Ferreira said in a video that it has been difficult to "open a window to the fertilizer market." Fertilizer continues to be very important, he said, but "we preferred to associate with an international company that has a very relevant production of potash and is extremely competitive as well in phosphate."

Vale has been shedding some of its assets to meet a $10 billion debt reduction goal next year. The company posted a record $12.1 billion loss in 2015, largely because of low iron ore prices globally. Its transaction with Mosaic is expected to close in late 2017 after regulatory scrutiny.

Other companies in the fertilizer industry have also been consolidating, in large part because of excessive supply and the resulting low prices. Canada's two largest fertilizer firms, Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., announced in September an all-share merger to create another of the world's largest crop-nutrient suppliers. Shareholders from both companies voted to approve the proposed merger last month. If approved by regulators, the arrangement could be finalized in mid-2017.

Mosaic shares closed Monday at $27.77, down $1.79, or 6 percent. Vale stock was also down at market close by 45 cents or 5.5 percent for the day.