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UPDATE 1-France seeks to rally EU over land routes for Ukrainian crops

(Adds detail, background)

PARIS, Oct 31 (Reuters) -

France is working to boost Ukraine grain exports via land routes in conjunction with other EU states, the farm minister in Paris said on Monday, after Russia withdrew from a deal that had enabled such exports via the Black Sea.

On Saturday, Russia indefinitely suspended its participation in the U.N.-brokered grain deal, after what it said was a major Ukrainian drone attack on its Black Sea fleet in Crimea.

"The work we need to do at European level, we have often discussed it ... is look to see whether, if it cannot pass through the Black Sea, it can instead pass through overland routes," Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau told RMC Radio, citing routes through Romania and Poland.

"We will continue to work towards a system which does not put us in the hands ... of Vladimir Putin," said Fesneau, referring to the Russian president.

Fesneau said he had discussed the issue with other EU countries, notably Germany.

France signed a

cooperation agreement

with Romania in mid-September to ease the export of Ukrainian grains by land, rail and river routes.

Ukraine's grain exports have slumped since February's invasion because its Black Sea ports, a key route for shipments, were closed off, driving up global food prices and prompting fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.

Exports via the Black Sea resumed in July after Russia agreed to allow Ukrainian grain ships safe passage, and the prices of wheat and corn rose on Monday following Moscow's withdrawal.

The United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine agreed on a transit plan for Monday for 16 vessels, but Russia's decision is likely to hit shipments to import-dependent countries.

Fesneau on Monday said there would be "no direct consequence" from Russia's pullout for French consumers. (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Tassilo Hummel, Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Jason Neely, Ingrid Melander, John Stonestreet)

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