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325577

GRAINS-Wheat, corn, soy futures fall as traders monitor Ukraine crisis

(Adds closing prices)

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO, March 18 (Reuters) - U.S. grain and soybean futures eased on Friday as traders monitored diplomatic efforts to end Russia's invasion of Ukraine and gauged continuing disruptions to Black Sea crop exports.

More than three weeks after launching its invasion, in what Moscow calls a "special military operation," the Russian advance has stalled and failed to capture a single big city. Still, a World Food Programme official said food supply chains in Ukraine were collapsing, with infrastructure destroyed and many grocery stores empty.

Grain prices have been volatile since the invasion, as importers are heavily reliant on supplies shipped from Russia and Ukraine through the Black Sea.

Buyers will likely use declining corn prices as an opportunity to lock in more supplies, said Tomm Pfitzenmaier, analyst for Summit Commodity Brokerage in Iowa.

"It will be quite a while before grain will move out of Russia or Ukraine," he said. "The buyers of corn around the world will have to come to the U.S."

The most-active Chicago Board of Trade corn contract settled down 12-3/4 cents at $7.41-3/4 per bushel. Wheat fell 34-1/4 cents to $10.63-3/4 per bushel, while soybeans slipped 1/2-cent to end at $16.68 per bushel.

The markets will likely consolidate at high prices until it becomes clearer how long the Ukraine conflict may last, brokers said.

"The soybean market has turned into a sideways trading affair," Pfitzenmaier said.

Traders are also keeping an eye on dry weather in the U.S. Plains and waiting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue reports on March 31 on U.S. planting intentions and grain stocks.

In Argentina, farmers could be hit by a third straight La Nina weather phenomenon, the Rosario grains exchange said, a potential blow for the upcoming 2022/23 season. The climate pattern generally brings lower rainfall in key farming regions. (Reporting by Tom Polansek in Paris, Gus Trompiz in Paris and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Anil D'Silva, Subhranshu Sahu, Mark Porter, Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)

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