EU caves in Ukrainian grain battle, allows 5 member states to temporarily ban imports

Excavators work at a grain port in Izmail, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko)
By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

The European Commission on Tuesday permitted five member states to temporarily ban Ukrainian grain imports following complaints from domestic stakeholders that the cheaper product was flooding internal markets and undercutting local farmers.

In a press release, the EU executive announced it was adopting “exceptional and temporary preventive measures on imports of a limited number of products from Ukraine” in the first sign of faltering support for the war-torn country to appease the national governments of member states.

The five member states allowed to impose bans on Ukrainian produce are Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

The ban applies only to wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds produced in Ukraine. It will enter into force immediately and last until June 5.

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The European Union lifted its import tariffs on Ukrainian grain last year after Russian forces obstructed key export routes via Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. It established solidarity lanes through bordering EU member states to ensure Ukraine, one of the world’s largest producers of grain, could still export its produce to countries most in need.

The move had unintended consequences, however, and countries including Poland and Hungary acted unilaterally last month to block imports, much to the fury of Ukraine and initially the European Commission.

Some agrarian unions in the affected countries had staged protests along the Ukrainian border in a bid to disrupt the importation of cheaper grain, with local farmers outraged that the produce, which was intended to be for re-export only, was finding its way into internal markets.

The European Commission, which initially condemned the approach taken by some member states, soon began to backtrack and offered a financial support package worth €100 million to compensate farmers affected by the crisis.

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It now appears to be in alignment with concerned national governments and risks the wrath of the Ukrainian government, which slammed the unilateral action taken by EU member states last week, describing it as “categorically unacceptable.”

“There are full legal grounds for the immediate resumption of exports of Ukrainian agricultural goods to Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria, as well as the continuation of unhindered exports to other EU member states,” read a statement from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a U.N.-brokered deal to allow the safe export of Ukrainian produce via the country’s Black Sea ports is expected to be negotiated on Wednesday, according to the Ukrainian government.

“Talks are scheduled for Wednesday. All parties (are involved). Hopefully, there will be results,” an unnamed government source told the Reuters news agency.

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