19 April 2023, EU: Bulgaria’s acting agriculture minister, Yavor Gechev, told broadcaster BTV today that Ukrainian grain imports “could” be banned. Bulgaria has been waiting for the commission to decide on the legality of such a move for six months and could no let farmers go bankrupt, he said.
Slovakia’s prime minister, Eduard Heger, said on the country’s Facebook account today that Slovakia will “temporary suspend” imports of grain and other products from Ukraine, and that a meeting is planned with the commission today to discuss the matter.
A spokesperson for EU agriculture commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said trade policy is exclusively the EU’s competence. “Unilateral actions are not acceptable,” she told Argus. The commission called for countries to “co-ordinate and align” decisions within the EU.
Poland — citing compliance with EU law, and the presence of harmful pesticides in Ukrainian imports, including wheat — has banned imports of Ukrainian cereals, sugar, seeds, fruit and vegetables, beef, pork, poultry and eggs until 30 June.
Hungarian agriculture minister Istvan Nagy said Hungary is to ban imports of Ukrainian grain, oilseeds and other farm products until 30 June, to allow a “rethink” of an EU tariff suspension that has led to a “glut” on local markets. Nagy wants EU quotas reintroduced for wheat, maize, sunflower, rapeseed and soybeans, and said the EU should buy “unsold grain grown and stored in member states bordering Ukraine for humanitarian purposes”.
After speaking with Nagy on 16 April, Ukrainian agricultural minister Mykola Solskyi said Nagy had provided assurance that “transit of Ukrainian agricultural products would continue” after the suspension. The Ukrainian agriculture ministry said it regretted Poland’s decision to restrict exports and transit from Ukraine.
A week ago, Ukraine said it was suspending agricultural exports to Poland until the start of the 2023-24 marketing year on 1 July, although transit of grain and oilseed was expected to accelerate.
Ukrainian agriculture ministry officials are visiting Poland today to discuss a resolution. The ministers are expected to sign a new deal redefining import and transit rules. The Ukrainian delegation is scheduled to visit Romania and Slovakia later this week.
The EU last month formally approved regulations providing €16.75mn in aid to Bulgaria, €29.5mn to Poland and €10mn for Romania. This will support farmers producing wheat and meslin, rye, barley, maize, rape, colza and sunflower seeds.
Ukraine increased agricultural exports to EU countries after the war began in February last year and disrupted seaborne shipments. Romania was the largest recipient of Ukrainian grain, oilseed and byproducts in July 2022-March 2023 — taking 8.8mn t, followed by Poland and Hungary, with 5mn t and 2.5mn t, respectively, according to Ukrainian custom data. Ukrainian agricultural exports to Bulgaria and Slovakia were at 1.1mn t and 801,000t, respectively.
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