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UPDATE 1-Romania's wheat harvest down 15-18% this year, minister says

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BUCHAREST, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Romania has finished reaping its wheat crop for the year, and the harvest is 15% to 18% smaller than in 2021, Agriculture Minister Petre Daea said on Wednesday.

The European Union state reaped a record grain crop in 2021, including 11.3 million tonnes of wheat, but crops this year have been affected by weather and higher production costs.

Daea said earlier this month the wheat harvest was large enough to cover Romanian domestic needs and ensure a surplus for exports. The country's domestic consumption traditionally ranges from 2.5 to about 3 million tonnes.

Daea told reporters he expected to present full harvest figures next week. He also said farmers have started reaping sunflower earlier than last year in five counties in drought-affected areas.

High temperatures and prolonged drought have affected crops, particularly maize and sunflower seeds, across the country and preliminary ministry data on Wednesday showed damage to 284,376 hectares out of roughly 7 million hectares of grain and oil-producing crops.

Romania has been among the largest grain sellers in the European Union and is an active exporter to the Middle East, with Egypt the main buyer.

It exports through its flagship port of Constanta, which Ukraine has been using as an alternative route since Russia blocked its Black Sea ports in February. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by Jason Neely)

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