EU agriculture commissioner says an alternative solution to extending the ban would be to subsidise transit costs of Ukrainian exports of grain and other produce across CEE states.
An EU meeting of agriculture ministers on Tuesday put off until September any decision on a request from Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia to extend measures agreed back in April that have banned imports of wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds originating in Ukraine to these countries.
“After the two months left on this agreement, we will review the situation on the markets and will see what happens with this Russian blockade of the Black Sea,” EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski told a press conference. “Let’s hope we’ll find a solution to this and this Black Sea corridor will be freed, because that would solve many problems, including Polish farmers’ problems.”
In a meeting described by the current president of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, Luis Planas, as one of “mixed feelings”, several member states, including Germany and France, backed the Ukrainians in implacably opposing any extension of these “preventative measures” requested by Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
Those countries had issued a joint declaration on July 20 calling for an extension of the EU preventive measures on imports of wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds originating in Ukraine until at least the end of the year, given the “continuing difficult situation on agricultural markets as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine”.
The issue of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural exports ending up on the neighbouring markets of Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia has been a thorn in the side of the EU’s solidarity with Ukraine since Russia began restricting Ukrainian agricultural exports via the Black Sea port of Odesa after its invasion in February 2022.
To overcome Russia’s belligerent attempt to choke off Ukraine’s agricultural exports, the latest of which came last week when Moscow pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the EU has supported so-called “solidarity routes” that allow Ukrainian grain and other produce to travel overland across Europe and onto destinations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Problems arose, however, when these cheaper imports began ending up on CEE markets, where they undercut local produce and angered farmers. In response, governments of those countries introduced unilateral bans on Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds in April until an EU deal was agreed that from May put in place preventive measures which “have made it possible to reduce pressure on local markets, while at the same time enabling the transit of Ukrainian goods to traditional markets in non-EU countries.”
Those preventative measures are due to expire on September 15.
EU Commissioner Wojciechowski said members of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council understood the problems that these frontline states were going through. He proposed that one alternative solution to extending the ban would be to increase the number of solidarity routes and strengthen existing routes by subsidising the transit transport costs, which would encourage the problematic Ukrainian exports as well as those of poultry and fruit to complete their journey out of the EU.
“On the margins of today’s AgriFish Council meeting I had a meeting with ministers of five frontline member states and… I was assured that there’s no problem with transit… it has increased two times more than before,” Wojciechowski said. “We need to consider support for the transport… I will propose to the Commission we should discuss how to find a solution on how to support the transport costs using EU money.”
“In September, before these limitations expire, we will have to come up with a summary of all the new circumstances, including the Black Sea being blocked by the Russians… and this year’s [Ukrainian] harvest information, estimated to be higher by 13 million tonnes,” he added.
Source : BalkanInsight