Kyiv aims to re-open food and grain transit via Poland as “a first step” to ending import bans at talks in Warsaw on Monday as countries halted grain from Ukraine to protect their local agriculture markets from an influx of supply.
Poland and Hungary announced bans on some imports from Ukraine on Saturday. Slovakia said on Monday it would do the same and other countries in central and eastern Europe said they were also considering action.
Some Black Sea ports were blocked after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February last year and large quantities of Ukrainian grain – which is cheaper than that produced in the European Union – ended up staying in Central European countries because of logistical bottlenecks.
Local farmers say this has lowered prices and reduced their sales and governments have asked the European Union to act.
“The first step, in our opinion, should be the opening of transit, because it is quite important and it is the thing that should be done unconditionally and after that we will talk about other things,” Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky said.
About 10 per cent of food goods Ukraine exports crosses the Polish border, Solsky said in comments published on the Telegram messaging app by the Agriculture Ministry. Deliveries to Hungary accounted for around six per cent of Ukraine’s farm exports, he said.
Ukraine is holding additional talks this week in Romania on Wednesday, and in Slovakia on Thursday, Solsky added. Poland’s embargo, in effect since Saturday evening, also applied to transit through the country to keep grain transport from entering the Polish market.
“The ultimate goal is not that the import ban will be in force indefinitely, but to ensure that grain from Ukraine, which is to be exported, goes (where it is headed),” Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told radio station RMF.
Talks between Ukraine and Poland were due to start in Warsaw around 12:00 p.m. (1000 GMT) on Monday, Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus said on TVP Info.
Meanwhile, the obstacles to Ukrainian imports looked set to mount. Slovakia plans to temporarily halt imports of grains and other selected products from Ukraine, a government spokesman said on Monday.
Hungary’s farm minister, Istvan Nagy, said a solution was needed beyond the national level. “Joint European action and EU measures are inevitable,” he said.
The prime ministers of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia raised the issue in a letter to the European Commission last month. They said tariffs on Ukrainian imports should be considered, and states have also pushed for a purchase mechanism to buy up cheap grain.
A senior EU official said EU envoys were due to discuss Poland and Hungary’s bans this week – after the bloc’s executive said on Sunday that unilateral action was unacceptable.
The official said there was an issue as low global prices and demand meant grain was staying in the bloc rather than being sold on.
Ukraine usually exports its agricultural goods, especially grain, via its Black Sea ports which were unblocked last July in line with an agreement between Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and the United Nations.
- A Reuters report
That accord is scheduled to expire on May 18 and Moscow said last week that it may not be extended unless the West removes obstacles to the export of Russian grain and fertiliser.
- A Reuters report