17.04.2023 14:23

European Commission criticizes decision of Poland and Hungary to ban Ukraine grain imports

Printer-friendly version
17.04.2023 14:23

Unilateral action on trade by European Union member states is unacceptable, the bloc's executive said on Sunday, after Poland and Hungary announced bans on grain and other food imports from Ukraine to protect their local agricultural sectors.

After Russia's invasion blocked some Black Sea ports, large quantities of Ukrainian grain, which is cheaper than that produced in the European Union, ended up staying in Central European states due to logistical bottlenecks, hitting prices and sales for local farmers.

The issue has created a political problem for Poland's ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party in an election year as it has angered people in rural areas where support for PiS is usually high.

"We are aware of Poland and Hungary's announcements regarding the ban on imports of grain and other agricultural products from Ukraine," a spokesperson for the European Commission said in an emailed statement.

"In this context, it is important to underline that trade policy is of EU exclusive competence and, therefore, unilateral actions are not acceptable."

"In such challenging times, it is crucial to coordinate and align all decisions within the EU," the statement added.

Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller told state-run news agency PAP the government was in constant contact with the European Commission about the issue, and that the ban was possible due to a security clause.



The Polish ban, which came into effect on Saturday evening, will also apply to the transit of these products through the country, the development and technology minister said on Sunday.

"The ban is full, including the ban on transit through Poland," Waldemar Buda wrote on Twitter, adding that talks would be held with Ukraine to create a system that ensures goods only pass through Poland and do not end up on the local market.

State-run Ukrinform news agency said Ukrainian and Polish ministers are due to meet on Monday in Poland and the transit arrangement would be the focus of the talks.

Poland's Agriculture Minister Robert Telus was quoted as saying on Sunday that the ban was necessary to "open the eyes of the EU to the fact that further decisions are needed that will allow products from Ukraine to go deep into Europe, and not stay in Poland."

The ban is due to last until June 30, the finance ministry said.

Ukraine normally exports most of its agricultural goods, especially grain, via its Black Sea ports, unblocked in July in line with an agreement between Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and the United Nations.

That accord is scheduled to expire on May 18 and Moscow indicated last week that it may not be extended unless the West removes obstacles to the export of Russian grain and fertiliser.

Around 3 million tonnes of grain left Ukraine every month via the Black Sea grain corridor while only up to 200,000 tonnes are moving to European ports through Polish territory, according to the Ukrainian ministry.

Solsky said at the weekend that 500,000 to 700,000 tonnes of various agricultural products cross the Polish border every month, including grain, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, meat and other products.


EU to discuss Ukraine grain ban this week - official

European Union member countries' envoys in Brussels will discuss this week a move by Poland and Hungary to ban grain and other food imports from Ukraine, a senior EU official said on Monday.

The senior EU official, speaking under condition of anonymity, said low global prices and demand meant the grain was staying in the bloc rather than being sold on. The oversupply became a political problem for Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in an election year.

"We expect Poland and Hungary to offer some explanation and there will also be reaction by the European Commision," said the official, adding that the matter was raised at the last summit of EU national leaders, including by Slovakia and Romania.

"There is an issue and we expect the Commission to come up with a proposal on that... We'll see what we can do in the coming weeks and months."


Following Poland and Hungary, Slovakia stops importing grain from Ukraine

The Government of Slovakia approved the decision to ban the import of grain from Ukraine. The restrictive measures are temporary, the country's Prime Minister Eduard Heger said, but he did not specify how long the ban would last.

Other products of the Ukrainian agricultural industry were also banned. It is currently not specified which goods will be prohibited from being imported from Ukraine, except for grain.

"Slovakia will temporarily stop importing grain and some other products from Ukraine. Today, the working group will meet on this topic. The results will be published," Heger wrote on Facebook.

He explained that the reason for the temporary suspension of the import of some agricultural products from Ukraine is "to protect the health of the population of Slovakia."


Meanwhile, Bulgaria's Agriculture Minister Yavor Gechev said the country was also considering a ban on Ukrainian grain imports, local agency BTA reported on Sunday.

In Romania, farmers are also demanding a ban on imports and threatening large-scale protests.


Ukraine seeks re-opening of food transit via Poland at talks

Kyiv will aim to secure the re-opening of food and grain transit via Poland as a "first step" at talks in Warsaw on Monday, Ukraine's agriculture minister said, after Poland and Hungary announced bans on some imports from Ukraine.

Some Black Sea ports were blocked after Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year and large quantities of Ukrainian grain - which is cheaper than that produced in the European Union - ended up staying in Central European countries because of logistical bottlenecks. This hit prices and sales for local farmers.

Ukraine usually exports most of its agricultural goods, especially grain, via its Black Sea ports which were unblocked last July in line with an agreement between Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and the United Nations.

"The first step, in our opinion, should be the opening of transit, because it is quite important and it is the thing that should be done unconditionally and after that we will talk about other things," Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky said.

"In terms of figures, everything that crossed the Polish border (from Ukraine)... is about 10% of everything (of food goods) Ukraine exported," he said in comments published on the Telegram messaging app by the Agriculture Ministry.

He added that deliveries to Hungary accounted for around 6% of Ukraine's farm exports.

Solsky said that Ukrainian food transit via Hungary and Slovakia was unaffected.

He also said there would be additional talks this week in Romania on Wednesday, and in Slovakia on Thursday.

Solsky told Reuters separately that the Warsaw talks were expected to start around midday.



What is the main hindering factor for agrarian business development in Ukraine?:
Other polls