MOSCOW/KIEV, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Major Black Sea grain producers Russia and Ukraine are likely to keep their winter grain sowing area stable this autumn, paving the way for another large crop in 2018, analysts said.
Plantings in both countries are running ahead of last year's pace with almost two-thirds of the winter grains area sown in Russia and more than a third in Ukraine.
Russia is widely expected to become the world's top wheat exporter in the 2017/18 marketing year which started on July 1, following a record harvest this year.
For the next year's crop, Russian farmers have already sown winter grains on 64 percent of the planned area, or on 11.2 million hectares, compared with 10.8 million hectares on the same date a year ago, the agriculture ministry said.
They plan to sow winter grains on 17.5 million hectares in total, according to the ministry, compared with 17.4 million hectares a year ago.
The high pace of sowing paves the way for Russia's total area to match or even surpass last year's record winter grain sowing area, SovEcon agriculture consultancy said in a note.
"The expected large area of winter grains sowing may mean a repeat of a high wheat crop in 2018 subject to favourable weather conditions," it added.
Rainy weather in some Russian regions poses a risk to next year's grain crop, an Agriculture Ministry official said last week.
The ministry is much more pessimistic than SovEcon about the outlook for the 2018 crop, and its forecast is far lower than most unofficial estimates.
In Ukraine, this year's harvest was just below the 2016 record after rains delayed plantings.
However, conditions are more favourable for next year's crop and Ukrainian farmers have already sown winter grain on 35 percent of the total area, or on 2.5 million hectares, including 2.4 million hectares of winter wheat.
"Weather conditions in most Ukrainian regions are better than a year ago and this will allow farmers to complete the sowing within an optimum period," Marina Sych at agriculture consultancy UkrAgroConsult said.
The pace of sowing is ahead of last year's when rains delayed it to 2.0 million hectares of winter wheat around the same date, she added.
Ukraine's Agriculture Ministry has said that the country's winter wheat sowing area is unlikely to change from a year ago and farmers could sow around 6 million hectares with winter wheat. Winter wheat accounts for around 95 percent of Ukraine's total wheat area.
Ukraine experienced hot and dry weather in its eastern and southern regions in August, and weather forecasters have said that it could hamper winter grain sowing due to the lack of moisture.
The weather conditions in Ukraine's southern regions remain unfavourable but even there farmers started the sowing with a hope for wet autumn and mild winter, UkrAgroConsult said. (Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow and Pavel Polityuk in Kiev; Editing by Nigel Hunt and Susan Fenton)