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UPDATE 1-Ukraine sunseed exports could fall by 29%, APK-Inform says

* Exports for now seen falling by up to 29%

* Port closures could see traders boost sunseed exports by rail

* If that happens sunseed exports could rise this year (Adds detail, background)

KYIV, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Ukraine's sunflower seed exports in the new 2022/23 September-August season could fall by 29% to 1.1 to 1.2 million tonnes if its Black Sea ports remain open, analyst APK-Inform said on Wednesday.

Alternatively, if the ports are shut, exports of sunseeds may be preferred over grain, with 2022/23 sunseed exports seen rising to up to 3 million tonnes from 1.63 million last season, APK-Inform said.

Ukraine's agricultural exports have slumped since the start of the Russian 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.

Three Black Sea ports were unblocked at the end of July under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.

Before the Russian invasion, which Moscow calls a "special military operation", Ukraine was the world's largest sunflower seed grower and sunflower oil exporter.

Before the war, Ukraine exported sunseed in limited volumes, since processing facilities within the country could refine the entire crop, and exporting sunoil by sea is more profitable than seeds.

But in the event of closed ports, with rail the only export outlet, traders traditionally have preferred to export sunseeds due to their higher prices and stable demand in Europe.

This year, Ukraine is likely to reduce its sunseed harvest sharply to around 10.7 million tonnes from 16.6 million tonnes in 2021 due to hostilities in many regions, APK-Inform said.

The agriculture ministry said last week farmers had started the 2022 sunflower harvest. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; editing by Jason Neely)

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