Poland’s grain markets are being destabilized by cheap Ukrainian grain, putting farmers’ livelihoods at risk, and they are growing increasingly furious. In fact, just a few days ago, Polish Agriculture Minister Henryk Kowalczyk had eggs thrown at him at the European Farmers Forum in Jasionka, southern Poland.
The problem is that since the beginning of June 2022, Ukrainian farmers have been free to export grain into the EU without any limits as part of the so-called “solidarity corridors.” That grain was meant to simply pass through Poland on the way to other countries, mainly in the developing world, but this plan has gone awry.
Instead, the majority of the imported grain has remained in Poland, leading to serious problems for Polish producers who are unable to sell their grain as a result.
Poland’s agriculture minister has promised to empty the warehouses of grain over the coming months, and during a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he has instructed the agriculture minister to prepare plans very quickly to address the problem. He expects the excess grain to be sold to Africa and the Middle East, which is where that grain was meant to go in the first place.
Morawiecki also promised to introduce regulations that will limit the import of Ukrainian grain into Poland. The government intends to present the European Commission with a letter demanding urgent action, using all available procedures, instruments and regulations to limit the inflow of Ukrainian grain into markets of neighboring states.
The last week or so has witnessed a crescendo of protests from Polish farmers. They have criticized the government and Kowalczyk during the ruling conservatives’ meetings with voters and also at country markets and fairs.
On Wednesday, the government and farming representatives met fir a round-table discussion on the issue of Ukrainian grain. The atmosphere around these talks was tense, with the government not allowing the farmers’ representatives to bring electronic recording equipment into the meeting room. The farmers are demanding that the Ukrainian grain be only allowed to transit through Poland without any right for it to be sold in the country.
According to the Grain and Feed Chamber (IZP), the Polish government has committed to transferring 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain using the capacity of Polish ports, totaling no more than 700,000 tons per month. However, Poland itself has to export 10 million tons of grain. So far, 3 million tons of grain have arrived from Ukraine, mainly corn, wheat and rapeseed. It is still not clear how much of that has been exported from Poland.
What is clear is that Polish warehouses are full of grain. Poland produces around 35 million tons of grain per year, and 25-26 million tons is for the domestic market — the rest is exported.
Since the price of grain is falling on world markets and there is a glut of supply from Ukraine, the farmers’ businesses are under threat. This is why they are up in arms, as in a few months, they will need room in the warehouses for the new harvest.