June 24, 2024

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Ukraine's grain import ban escalated as Kiev sought a transit deal

Ukraine’s grain import ban escalated as Kiev sought a transit deal

  • Poland and Ukraine are in talks on banning grain transit
  • Poland and Hungary ban imports, followed by Slovakia
  • The EU executive warned against taking unilateral steps
  • The European Union is discussing a grain ban in Ukraine this week

KYIV (Reuters) – Slovakia on Monday joined Poland and Hungary in banning grain imports from Ukraine, as even Kiev’s staunchest allies come under domestic pressure to protect their agricultural markets.

Tensions are running high in Brussels for a comprehensive EU solution after Warsaw and Budapest announced bans on some imports from Ukraine at the weekend, with other eastern European countries saying they were also considering action.

Farmers say imports from Ukraine have lowered prices and lowered sales. In Poland, the issue has created a problem in an election year for the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party that relies on rural areas for much of its support.

After the talks, Polish Minister of Agriculture Robert Tellos said: “Ukraine needs aid, but the costs of this assistance must be distributed among all European countries, not just the frontline countries, especially Poland. We do not agree to this, because it harms our farmers.” which started in Warsaw on Monday.

Kiev said it aims to reopen the transit of food and grain through Poland as a “first step” to ending the import ban, but Tellos said no solution has yet been found to ensure that grain passing through Poland does not end up domestically. market.

Some Black Sea ports were closed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, and logistical bottlenecks led to the detention of large quantities of Ukrainian grain, which is cheaper than that produced in the European Union, in central European countries.

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The export and transit bans in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia come as a deal to allow millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to be exported through the Black Sea, despite Ukraine’s war, is about to expire on May 18. Meanwhile, Russian demands left the prospect of extending this deal uncertain.

The combined effect of the embargo and failure to agree an extension would cut off millions of tons of grain inside Ukraine, a major agricultural producer that makes a large portion of its GDP from food sales.

This was stated by the Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture Mykola Solsky before the talks held in the capital, Warsaw.

To prevent any grain entering its market, the Polish ban also covered transit through the country, which imported 2.45 million tons of grain, or three-quarters of all imports, from Ukraine in 2022, data from the Polish Ministry of Agriculture showed.

The ban has bewildered truck drivers who have been stranded for days in long border traffic jams.

“We can’t go either way. Yes, the Poles reached out to us, and I’m so grateful to them. I’m so grateful, the whole of Ukraine, even the whole world. But right now, Poland doesn’t.” “Let (us) enter for a reason,” Mykola Pervin, a driver from Zhitomir, Ukraine, told Reuters.

Pervin said he was stuck for three days and the tailgating was more than 25 kilometers.

EU action ‘inevitable’

Slovakia agreed to halt imports indefinitely after Poland’s move, although it maintained transit, while BTA news agency reported that Bulgaria’s agriculture minister also said the country may limit imports.

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Istvan Nagy, Hungary’s agriculture minister, said a solution was needed beyond the national level, describing the EU’s eventual action as inevitable. The Czech Republic also urged a comprehensive EU solution, while saying it would not impose a ban itself for now.

Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia raised the issue with the European Commission last month, saying tariffs on Ukrainian imports should be considered, while the countries also pushed for an EU procurement mechanism to buy cheap grain.

Tellos said six countries wanted to meet with the EU commissioner responsible for trade to find a solution.

A senior EU official said EU envoys would discuss the ban on Poland and Hungary on Wednesday – after the bloc’s executive said on Sunday that unilateral action was unacceptable.

The official said lower global prices and demand meant grain remained in the block rather than being sold.

Reporting by Pavel Politiuk. Writing by Tom Palmforth; Edited by Timothy Heritage

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