(Adds minister quotes, export quotas)
KIEV Nov 15 Ukraine raised on Thursday its maize exports estimates for 2012/13 to 14 million tonnes and the volume could include the first shipments to China, Agriculture Minister Mykola Prysyazhnnyuk was quoted as saying on Thursday.
Ukraine, a major wheat producer and also the world's fourth-biggest maize exporter, may in future be able to compete with the United States for China's maize market.
The government had previously said the maize exports could total 12.4 million tonnes in 2012/13 versus about 15 million tonnes in 2011/12.
"The exports have totalled 3.3 million tonnes so far (in the 2012/13 season) and the overall plan is 14 million tonnes", Prysyazhnyuk said in an interview to official newspaper Uriadovy Kurier published on Thursday.
In another interview to local UNIAN news agency, he said China could be one of top export destinations for Ukrainian maize.
"For the first time we received official permission to supply maize for the Chinese market. We managed to achieve quotas to supply up to 5 million tonnes of maize," Prysyazhnyuk said.
He did not clarify the terms of the forthcoming shipments.
Ukraine boosted its maize output to a record 22.7 million tonnes last year from about 5 million tonnes five years ago. The ministry says a maize harvest of about 20 million tonnes could be on the cards for this year.
Ukraine exports its maize mostly to the Middle East and north Africa, but the former Soviet republic has said it is looking for new markets for its bumper harvests.
Earlier this month Ukraine said it might start its shipments of maize to China by the end of this year under an agreement which will allow the country pay back a $3 billion loan to the giant.
It also said that has asked Beijing to grant it maize supply allocations for 2013. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, editing by William Hardy)