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Russian farmers might plant less winter grain if rains persist -analysts

MOSCOW, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Russian farmers could sow less winter grains for the 2023 crop this autumn than a year ago due to heavy rains which replaced dry weather in the central and southern regions, analysts said.

Russia is the world's largest wheat exporter, supplying the grain mainly to Africa and the Middle East.

Farmers have already sown winter grains on 8.6 million hectares, down 1.5 million hectares from the area at the same point a year ago, Sovecon consultancy said, adding that the gap was 1.1 million hectares a week ago.

"This is the lowest area for this week since 2013. The farmers need to speed up shortly or we are likely to see a substantial decrease in the final area," Sovecon said in a note.

Farmers in the central region planted only 2.0 million hectares, down 900,000 from a year ago, and 2.0 million hectares in the southern region, down 700,000.

Farmers in the central regions cannot enter some fields for sowing as it is too wet, said Dmitry Rylko, head of the IKAR consultancy.

Some farmers are also waiting for a chance to free up fields for winter grain sowing from soybeans and sunflower seeds, he added.

Winter wheat, sown in autumn for harvesting in summer, typically accounts for 70% of Russia's crop. It brings a higher yield than spring varieties and is less vulnerable to weather.

Most parts of Russia's southern regions can sow winter grains until mid-November. The deadline for optimal sowing in the central regions is mid-October.

Some farmers plan to or are considering reducing the winter wheat sowing area this year as they believe that domestic price is too low for their production costs, Andrey Sizov at Sovecon said. They may replace it with soybeans.

Rains are expected to continue in the central and Volga regions this week, while dry weather is expected in the south, Sovecon said. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Jason Neely)

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