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UPDATE 2-Mild winter dramatically improves condition of Russian winter grains

(Adds detail on spring grain sowing in paragraphs 6-8)

MOSCOW, March 4 (Reuters) - A mild Russian winter has dramatically improved the condition of winter grain sowings, which were previously hit by a dry autumn, weather forecaster Hydrometcentre said on Thursday, signalling brighter prospects for the country's 2021 crop.

The portion of winter grain sowings in poor condition was at a 7-year high of about 22% in early December as farmers in one of the world's largest wheat exporters planted in dry soil.

Among sown winter grains, 7-9% are currently in bad condition, compared with 4% a year ago, Roman Vilfand, head of science at Hydrometcentre told an online briefing in Moscow.

"One can breathe freely now. The situation has significantly improved," he said, adding that it was rare for winter to improve, rather than worsen, the condition of the grain crop in Russia.

Russian farmers have planted winter grains for the 2021 crop on 19.3 million hectares, up 1.1 million hectares from a year ago.

Vilfand said prospects for this year's grain crop would become clearer once additional data about the condition of winter grains is available in the second half of March and the active phase of spring grain sowing starts.

The situation with moisture reserves is good in most of Russia's grain producing regions, excluding several parts of southern regions, he added.

Russia produced 133.5 million tonnes of grain in 2020, including 86 million tonnes of wheat. The IKAR and Sovecon consultancies previously forecast Russia's 2021 wheat crop at 78 million tonnes and 76 million tonnes, respectively. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Jason Neely, Kirsten Donovan)

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