KYIV, April 16 (Reuters) - Ukraine's grain harvest is likely to fall to about 52 million metric tons this year from 58 million tons in 2023, mostly due to an expected smaller sowing area, the farm ministry said on Tuesday in its first official harvest forecast for 2024.

The ministry said last month that the sowing area for corn was likely to drop 4.5% to 3.863 million hectares this year from 4.043 million in 2023.

Farmers may also reduce the area sown for spring wheat and sunflowers, but are tipped to increase it for spring barley and soybeans.

The ministry's crop forecast shows the country could harvest 27 million tons of corn, 19 million tons of wheat and 5 million tons of barley this year.

Ukraine has not published final 2023 harvest results. The latest figures put the wheat harvest at around 22.5 million tons, with farms also harvesting 5.9 million tons of barley and 28.2 million tons of corn.

The ministry said farmers this year might thresh 4 million tons of rapeseed, 12.5 million tons of sunseed and 5.2 million tons of soybeans.

The ministry has said farmers may sharply increase the area sown for soybeans this year to 2.199 million hectares from 1.780 million in 2023 because soybeans were almost the only profitable crop in 2023.

Ukraine used to be the world's largest producer and exporter of sunflower oil. However, a decrease in sunoil prices could force producers to cut the area sown for sunflowers to 5.292 million hectares from 5.307 million in 2023, the data showed.

Ukraine harvested 4 million tons of rapeseed, 4.8 million tons of soybeans and 12 million tons of sunflower seeds in 2023.

Ukrainian grain traders union UGA said last month the combined grain and oilseeds harvest for 2024 was likely to shrink to 76.1 million tons from 82.6 million last year - far below the 107 million tons harvested before the Russian invasion.

The UGA said the harvest could include 26.3 million tons of corn, 20 million tons of wheat and 13.7 million tons of sunflower seeds. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk Editing by Mark Potter)