KIEV (Reuters) - An expected sharp fall in temperatures in Ukraine could damage the country's winter grain crops because of a lack of snow cover on the fields, analyst UkrAgroConsult said on Thursday.
Meteorologists forecast a cold snap starting on Jan. 6 and predict that air temperatures will fall on average to 13-17 degrees Celsius below zero, perhaps even to minus 20 degrees.
"The current level of snow cover is insufficient for reliable protection of winter crops against frosts harsher than minus 15 degrees lasting for five days," it said in a statement.
"Survival of the upcoming frost by winter crops will entirely depend on the amount of snowfall in this period."
A majority of Ukraine's fields are covered with at most 4-5 cm of snow as of Jan. 5, according to forecasters.
Ukrainian farmers have increased the area sown for the 2017 harvest to about 8.1 million hectares from 7.8 million hectares a year earlier, mostly due to a higher area under winter rape.
Most of the sown winter grain area was seen in good and satisfactory condition as of Dec. 29.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, editing by David Evans