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Ukraine sees larger 2023 wheat area, but low pace of sowing

KYIV, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Ukraine's agriculture ministry revised up its forecast of the area to be sown for the 2023 winter wheat harvest to around 4 million hectares from the previous outlook of 3.8 million hectares, ministry data showed on Tuesday.

The ministry said farmers had sown 2.5 million hectares of winter wheat as of Oct. 18, or 61% of the expected area.

The data showed that the pace of sowing winter wheat in Ukraine for the 2023 harvest is 50% lower than last year's figures when farmers sowed 5 million hectares as of Oct. 18.

The ministry gave no reason for the decrease while local officials and analysts say rains across most of the country and a lack of funds are the main reasons for the delay.

Ukraine sowed more than 6 million hectares of winter wheat for the 2022 harvest, but a large area has been occupied by Russian forces since the invasion in February. Farms harvested only 4.6 million hectares of wheat this year.

Ukrainian state weather forecasters said this week less than 30% of the winter grain crop area for the 2023 harvest was sown at optimal times because of poor weather and this was "significantly less" than in previous years.

They also said that crops sown in October could enter the winter in the initial stages of development, leaving them weakened and vulnerable to adverse winter conditions.

The ministry last week said farmers completed the 2022 wheat harvest, threshing 19.2 million tonnes of the commodity versus 32.2 million tonnes in 2021 and a fall in the output was caused by hostilities in the country's eastern, northern and southern regions.

First deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskyi said last month Ukraine's 2023 wheat harvest may decrease to 16-18 million tonnes due to an expected fall in the winter wheat sowing area. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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