Poland urges EU to limit influx of Ukrainian grain

Farmers in Bulgaria protest against the duty-free import of Ukrainian grain into the EU, on March 29, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

WARSAW - Poland wants the European Union to use all tools at its disposal to limit the amount of Ukrainian grain entering the EU market, the prime minister said on Wednesday, amid fury among farmers because imports have depressed Polish grain prices.

The displeasure of farmers poses a major headache for the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party in an election year, as its conservative voter base mainly lives in rural areas and small towns.

“We demand the use of all regulatory instruments – quotas, tariffs, which will limit or block the import of Ukrainian grain into Poland,” Mr Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference.

Mr Morawiecki said he had agreed with the leaders of several countries bordering Ukraine to write to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to demand action.

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, had its Black Sea ports blocked following Russia’s February 2022 invasion and it found alternative shipping routes through EU states Poland and Romania.

Logistical bottlenecks mean large quantities of Ukrainian grains, which are cheaper than those produced in the EU, have ended up in central European states, hurting prices and sales of local farmers.

Poland would ask the European Commission to employ a protective clause regarding grain imports to Poland from Ukraine, Agriculture Minister Henryk Kowalczyk said after meeting with farmers’ representatives on Wednesday.

The current regulation which lifts all import restrictions “provides for such a clause that can be introduced in a situation where there are market disturbances,” Mr Kowalczyk said.

Poland would encourage Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria to take a similar step, Mr Kowalczyk said.

Logistical bottlenecks mean large quantities of cheaper Ukrainian grains have ended up in central European states. PHOTO: AFP

Farmers have dismissed government aid proposed so far as inadequate.

“Money is due for every hectare of grain, losses must be covered,” said Mr Michal Kolodziejczak, founder of the Agrounia group ahead of talks with the government.

“There must be at least 6 billion zlotys (S$1.8 billion) to cover these losses.”

The figure cited by Mr Kolodziejczak was 10 times higher than the 600-million-zloty aid programme approved by the European Commission on Monday, which the government says will help compensate farmers for their losses.

Mr Kowalczyk said additional compensation of 520 million zlotys was in the works, with half of it coming from EU crisis provisions and the other half from the national budget, putting the total aid for Polish farmers at 1.12 billion zlotys.

Poland would also be seeking to export existing grain stocks to free up storage space by the next harvest, said Mr Kowalczyk, who had to be escorted out of an agricultural fair in the central city of Kielce after he was accosted by a crowd of angry farmers and had eggs thrown at him at another event a week ago. REUTERS

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