- The European Commission decides not to extend the ban
- Five countries were allowed to ban Ukrainian grain sales
BRUSSELS/WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland, Slovakia and Hungary announced restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports on Friday after the European Commission decided not to extend its ban on imports to Ukraine’s five EU neighbors.
Ukraine was one of the world’s largest grain exporters before the 2022 Russian invasion reduced its ability to ship agricultural products to global markets. Ukrainian farmers have relied on grain exports via neighboring countries since the conflict began, as they have been unable to use preferred routes via Black Sea ports.
But the influx of grains and oilseeds into neighboring countries has depressed prices there, affecting the income of local farmers and leading governments to ban agricultural imports from Ukraine. The European Union intervened in May to prevent individual countries from imposing a unilateral ban and imposed its own ban on imports to neighboring countries. Under the EU ban, Ukraine was allowed to export through those countries on the condition that the products were sold elsewhere.
The European Union allowed this ban to expire on Friday after Ukraine pledged to take measures to tighten controls on exports to neighboring countries. This issue has become especially sensitive now as farmers harvest their crops and prepare for sale.
European Union Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said on Friday that countries should refrain from taking unilateral measures against Ukrainian grain imports, but Poland, Slovakia and Hungary responded immediately by re-imposing their restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports. They will continue to allow the transit of Ukrainian products.
“As long as Ukraine is able to certify that the grain will reach the destination country, through trucks and trains, the ban on domestic use will not really affect Ukraine’s ability to export exports,” he said. Terry Reilly, chief agricultural strategist at Marks. He noted that disruption to Black Sea exports is a greater concern.
It is unclear to what extent Ukraine has pledged to restrict exports or how the new ban will affect the flow of products from Ukraine. The case has highlighted division in the EU over the impact of the war in Ukraine on the economies of member states with strong agricultural and agricultural lobbies.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the EU’s decision not to extend the ban on grain exports in Kiev, but said his government would respond in a “civilized way” if EU member states violate EU rules.
But the three countries say their actions are in the interest of their economies.
“The ban includes four types of cereals, but also at my request, at the request of farmers, the ban was extended to include meals of these cereals: corn, wheat and rapeseed, so that these products also do not affect the Polish market.” Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Tilos said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki added: “We will extend this ban despite their disagreement, and despite the European Commission’s disagreement.” “We will do this because it is in the interest of the Polish farmer.”
Hungary has imposed a national ban on the import of 24 Ukrainian agricultural products, including grains, vegetables, several meat products and honey, according to a government decree published on Friday.
The Slovak Agriculture Minister followed suit and announced his own grain ban. All three bans apply only to domestic imports and do not affect transit to foreign markets.
Corridors of solidarity
The European Union created alternative land routes, called solidarity corridors, for Ukraine to use to export grains and oilseeds after Russia withdrew from the UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal in July, which allowed safe passage for cargo ships.
The EU Commission said the current measures would end as originally planned on Friday after Ukraine agreed to implement measures such as an export licensing system within 30 days.
The EU said there was no reason to prolong the ban because the supply distortions that led to the ban in May had disappeared from the market.
The European Union said it would not impose restrictions as long as Ukraine exercises effective export controls.
Farmers in Ukraine’s five neighboring countries have repeatedly complained that the abundance of products affects their local prices and pushes them towards bankruptcy.
Countries, with the exception of Bulgaria, were pushing for an extension of the ban imposed by the European Union. On Thursday, Bulgaria voted in favor of abolishing the restrictions.
The Romanian government, which unlike its counterparts did not issue a unilateral ban before May, said on Friday that it “regrets that a European solution to extend the ban has not been found.”
Romania said it would wait until Ukraine presents its plan to prevent increased exports before deciding how to protect Romanian farmers.
Romania sees more than 60% of alternative flows passing through its territory mainly via the Danube River, and its farmers have threatened to protest if the ban is not extended.
Last year, Ukraine moved 60% of its exports through the solidarity corridors and 40% through the Black Sea through a UN-brokered deal that collapsed in July.
In August, about 4 million tons of Ukrainian grain passed through the solidarity corridors, including nearly 2.7 million tons through the Danube River. The Commission wants to increase exports through Romania further, but the plan has been complicated by Russian drone attacks on Ukraine’s grain infrastructure along the Danube River and near the Romanian border.
(Reporting by Julia Payne and Alan Charlish) (Additional reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague, Karol Badohal in Warsaw, Buldissar Gyuri and Kristina Thanh in Budapest) Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Luisa Ili in Bucharest and Tom Polancic in Chicago; Writing by Nina Chestney. Edited by Simon Webb, David Evans, Alistair Bell and Grant McCall
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