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EU cereal crops avoid frost damage so far

PARIS, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Cereal crops in the European Union have suffered very little frost damage this winter and no losses are expected during the second half of February, the EU's crop monitoring service said.

The negligible damage reflected relatively mild weather, particularly in a swathe of central and eastern Europe including Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria with temperatures since January among the highest for the time of year in the past four decades, the MARS service said in a report on Monday.

The mild conditions meant winter crops in much of Europe were not fully hardened against low temperatures but projections suggested no damage up to the end of February, despite a cold spell forecast for the week ahead, MARS said.

A persistent moisture deficit in parts of Portugal, Spain and Italy was also a potential risk as spring approaches, but again there was no immediate threat to crops, it said.

The 28-country EU is a major cereal growing zone and is collectively the world's largest wheat producer.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Susan Fenton)