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Ukraine's winter wheat sowing pace three times lower than last year -ministry

KYIV, Oct 4 (Reuters) - The pace of sowing winter wheat in Ukraine for the 2023 harvest is three times lower than last year's figures, the data provided by the agriculture ministry showed on Tuesday.

Farms have sown 1.1 million hectares of winter wheat as of Oct. 3, or 27% of the expected area, compared with 3.1 million hectares sown at the same date in 2021, the data showed.

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.

The ministry did not provide a forecast of the 2023 winter wheat area, although Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky told Reuters in August that the area could fall to 3.8 million hectares from 4.6 million a year earlier because of Russia's invasion.

Kyiv-based Barva Invest consultancy said last month the area sown to winter wheat could total around 3.4 million hectares, 10.5% less than the agriculture minister expected.

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.

The ministry said in a statement that farmers had also sown 96,000 hectares of winter barley, or 14% of the expected area, and 35,000 hectares of rye, or 41% of the forecast.

It also said farmers had completed winter rape sowing, seeding a total of 989,000 hectares.

Ukraine harvested 19 million tonnes of wheat this year, compared with around 32.2 million tonnes in 2021. The sharp decline was the result of hostilities in many regions and the occupation of large areas by Russian forces.

First Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskyi said last month that Ukraine's 2023 wheat harvest may decrease to 16-18 million tonnes from 19 million tonnes in 2022 because of an expected fall in the winter wheat sowing area.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Editing by Louise Heavens)

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