Ukraine opposes 'illegal' extension of European farm trade curbs

Bulgaria will not extend restrictions, Ukraine grateful
calendar icon 17 September 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Ukraine said on Thursday that any move by eastern European states to extend restrictions on Ukrainian food exports that are due to expire on Sept. 15 would be illegal and harm common economic interests, reported Reuters.

Restrictions imposed by the European Union in May allowed Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, while permitting transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere.

Farmers in these eastern European countries have complained of a cereal glut sending domestic prices crashing and blamed it on cheap Ukrainian imports.

"We're convinced that any decision ... that will further restrict Ukrainian agricultural exports will not only be unjustified and unlawful," foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Facebook, but also harm "the common economic interests" of Ukraine, EU Member States and the European Union as a whole.

Before Russia's war in Ukraine, eastern European countries were not among the main importers of Ukrainian grain, but dynamics shifted after Russia enforced a de facto blockade of Ukraine's main export route via the Black Sea.

Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania are likely to extend the restrictions while Bulgaria on Thursday voted to scrap the curbs.

Gratitude to Bulgaria

Earlier on Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was grateful to Bulgaria for not extending restrictions on Ukrainian agricultural exports.

"Bulgaria sets an example of true solidarity," he said on the X social media platform.

Poland, which holds a parliamentary election on Oct. 15 and says cheaper Ukrainian grain makes domestic production unprofitable, has said it will not lift its ban even if the EU does not extend the arrangement this week.

Slovakia's government has also said it will uphold the ban and Hungary looks set to do the same.

Kyiv has said it could seek international arbitration over the restrictions.

Ukraine is likely to harvest around 85 million metric tons of grain and oilseeds in 2023, at least 50 million tons of which could potentially be exported.

Regardless of any national restrictions, Ukrainian grain transit to Baltic and Mediterranean ports will be unaffected.

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