By Pavel Polityuk
KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine's agricultural exports could rise to 6 million-6.5 million tonnes in October, double the volume seen in July, as its sea ports gradually reopen, the country's agriculture minister said on Monday.
Ukraine is one of the world's biggest exporter of grains, oilseeds and vegetable oils, but its exports have slumped this year, driving up global food prices, as Russia's invasion destroyed some agricultural land and the country's Black Sea ports were closed off.
Exports have picked up since 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.
Ukraine's 2022 grain harvest is expected to fall to 50 million tonnes from a record 86 million tonnes in 2021, according to official estimates. Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky told Reuters on Monday that the harvest could include 19 million tonnes of wheat, half of which would be exported, and 25 million-27 million tonnes of corn.
Only half a million tonnes of wheat were exported in August, he said, adding that volumes would increase.
"Wheat in Ukraine this year is of lower quality than last year. Cleaning in some regions was delayed due to rain and we see quality issues. This is not the best season in terms of quality," Solsky said in the interview.
Ukraine's winter wheat area sown for the 2023 harvest will fall by at least 20% from 2022, to around 3.8 million hectares, due to the Russian invasion, Solsky said. Russia calls its action in Ukraine a "special military operation".
Ukraine sowed more than 6 million hectares of winter wheat for the 2022 harvest, but a large area was occupied during the invasion and only around 4.6 million hectares of wheat would be harvested in Ukrainian-controlled territory, the minister said.
At least 10 million tonnes of various grains could be harvested on non-controlled territory, but a significant area of non-controlled territory would not be sown this autumn, he said, without giving a figure.
WHEAT NOT PRIORITY
Ukraine's winter barley sowing area for the 2023 harvest could also fall by 20% from last year while the winter rapeseed area would remain unchanged, Solsky said.
The next year's corn sowing area would also fall and would be replaced with soybeans or sunflower, he said.
"Rapeseed is already pressing, old stocks (wheat and corn) are already pressing, sunflower harvesting will begin in coming weeks, and on Sept. 10, corn will be harvested," he said.
Officials expect Ukraine's key agricultural exports - grains, oilseed and oils - to rise to about 4 million tonnes in August, from 3 million tonnes in July, and Solsky said the government had no plan to curb agriculture exports again this year.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Susan Fenton)