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Dry weather poses risk to Russia's 2019 grain crop - analysts

By Polina Devitt and Olga Popova

MOSCOW, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Dry weather in some Russian regions is posing a risk to next year's grain crop in one of the world's largest wheat exporters, analysts and an industry lobby group said.

Russian farmers are sowing winter grains for the next year's crop while the country is gathering this year's harvest. Officials expect the harvest to fall to 105 million tonnes in 2018 from a record 135 million tonnes in 2017.

"There is a drought in some regions, especially in the Volga region," Arkady Zlochevsky, head of the Russian Grain Union, a non-government farmers' lobby group, told a conference in Moscow on Wednesday. "It creates some additional risks."

Rains this autumn or good snow cover during the winter could still improve the level of moisture in the soil, he added.

Rains are expected to improve moisture reserves for 2019 winter wheat in parts of Russia and Ukraine in coming weeks, Andrey Sizov at SovEcon agriculture consultancy said.

A 2018 harvest of 105 million tonnes will still be large compared with the average for the past five years. The Agriculture Ministry is monitoring export plans of exporters and actual data, but has said it would not impose export limits.

The dry weather situation is similar in Ukraine, another major grain exporter via the Black Sea.

"Black Sea dryness is likely to deepen and persist" during the winter grains sowing campaign, Dan Basse, an economist and president of Chicago-based consultancy AgResource, told a grain conference in Moscow last week.

"Russia faces extremely dry soil (this autumn), which is a significant change compared with the previous two years," he added.

Another difficulty of this sowing campaign is that the rouble currency is close to its lowest since April 2016 against the dollar, meaning a potential growth in rouble prices for crop nutrients and imported seeds.

Russian fertiliser producers have agreed to freeze domestic prices for their products until the end of the sowing campaign.

As of Sept. 11, Russian farmers had already sown winter grains for next year's crop on 45 percent of the planned area, or 7.7 million hectares, compared with 5.6 million hectares at the same date a year ago, the ministry said. They plan to sow winter grains on 17.2 million hectares in total. (Reporting by Polina Devitt and Olga Popova Writing by Polina Devitt Editing by Edmund Blair)

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