EU lifts ban on Ukraine grains but bordering states reimpose their own restrictions

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Bilanol
© GettyImages/Bilanol

Related tags Ukraine Corn Wheat sunflower Rapeseed Poland

The EU executive arm announced at the end of last week that the import ban on grain and oilseeds from Ukraine in five neighbouring EU countries has expired.

But Poland, Slovakia and Hungary are not playing ball.

On Friday, September 15, the EU Commission reported the embargo imposed in May this year on grain and oilseeds exports from Ukraine into Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia had been removed.

Brussels said there was no reason to prolong the ban because the distortions in supply that led to it being implemented in May had disappeared from the market.

Furthermore, Ukraine has agreed to introduce control measures including an export licensing system to avoid a renewed surge in exports of corn, wheat, rapeseed and sunflower and to avoid upsetting the markets bordering the war-torn country.

Growing tensions

Nevertheless, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary have decided to reimpose their own restrictions​ on Ukrainian produce but will continue to allow its onward transit.

“We will extend this ban despite their disagreement, despite the EU Commission’s disagreement,” said Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki. “We will do it because it is in the interest of the Polish farmer.”

Hungary imposed a national import ban on 24 Ukrainian agricultural products, including grains, vegetables, some meat products, and honey, according to a government decree published on Friday, and Slovakia’s agriculture minister followed suit, imposing a ban on grain imports.

Bulgaria said it would not be extending the ban, and Romania is waiting to see what control measures Ukraine introduces before deciding on its course of action.

Background

With trade via Black Sea shipping lanes restricted due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, May 2022 saw the EU Commission and EU member states bordering Ukraine launch the EU-Ukraine solidarity lanes, allowing for the export of blockaded Ukrainian goods through EU road, railway, and river networks.

The EU solidarity lanes allow safe transport of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural commodities to international markets. However, farmers and other stakeholders in the states bordering Ukraine - Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia - claimed the influx of Ukrainian commodities into their markets was creating oversupply, and downward pressure on prices domestically.

A pact agreed with the Commission on May 2 allowed grain and oilseed products to keep transiting through those five countries but stopped them being sold on the local market. Those measures were initially set to remain in place until June 5, but they were subsequently extended to September 15 due to repeated demands from the bordering nations.

Ukraine has been moving 60% of its exports through the solidarity lanes and 40% via the Black Sea Grain Deal, reported Reuters.

That UN brokered agreement collapsed in July, with Russia pausing its participation​ in the initiative.

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