UPDATE 1-Ukraine says grain exports reached 5.2 million tonnes in February

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KYIV, March 1 (Reuters) - Ukrainian grain exports reached 5.2 million tonnes in February, exceeding last year’s level of 5.05 million tonnes, agriculture ministry data showed on Wednesday.

The data showed that overall grain exports so far for the 2022/23 season were down almost 26% at 32.3 million tonnes, hit by a smaller harvest and logistical difficulties caused by the Russian invasion.

The volume so far in the July to June season included more than 11.3 million tonnes of wheat, 18.6 million tonnes of corn and about 2 million tonnes of barley. Exports at the same stage of the previous season were almost 43.5 million tonnes.

After an almost six-month blockade caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, three Ukrainian Black Sea ports were unblocked at the end of July under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.

In February, Ukraine appealed to the United Nations and Turkey to press Russia to stop hindering Ukrainian grain shipments that supply millions of people and not to use food as a weapon.

A major global grain grower and exporter, Ukraine’s grain output is likely to have dropped to about 54 million tonnes in clean weight in the 2022 calendar year, down from a record 86 million tonnes in 2021.

Officials have blamed the fall on hostilities in the country’s eastern, northern and southern regions. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)