SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgarian barley exports are expected to reach near-record levels of 500,000-520,000 tons this year, the Agriculture Ministry said in an analysis yesterday. The ministry said that if overall conditions persist until the start of the barley harvest, the crop should reach 700,000-750,000 tons. An earlier estimate showed a more narrow range of 715,000-720,000 tonnes. The jump in exports, from only 19,000 tons in the 2003-04 market season, comes largely due to a surplus from a bumper crop last year and growing international demand for the grain, the ministry said. Bulgaria’s 2005 wheat and barley crops have suffered significant damage due to heavy rains and flooding throughout the summer, and a boom in the mouse population which damaged a large part of sown areas last autumn and this spring. Last year, most of Bulgaria’s barley exports went to Romania, Greece, Tunisia, Cyprus and Italy.