Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are continuing to push for extending a ban on grain imports from Ukraine until the end of the year, warning of disruptions to their domestic markets, according to people familiar with the issue.
(Bloomberg) — Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are continuing to push for extending a ban on grain imports from Ukraine until the end of the year, warning of disruptions to their domestic markets, according to people familiar with the issue.
The three states along with Bulgaria and Romania only allow the transit of Ukrainian grain through their territory in an arrangement that expires on Sept. 15. Bulgaria, though voicing concerns, remained flexible at a meeting of ambassadors from European Union countries Wednesday, said the people who asked not to be named on confidential talks.
Another official said that Romania will not seek a unilateral ban. Bulgaria will insist on extending the ban for sunflower, unrefined oil and powdered milk, but not for wheat, Agriculture Minister Kiril Vatev said last month.
Finding a solution is becoming more urgent as the deadline nears. Janusz Wojciechowski, European commissioner for agriculture, wants the ban prolonged until year-end while also offering subsidies to Ukrainian companies to support the cost of Ukrainian grain transit through Europe. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, has yet to take a decision on whether to support the ban extension.
Thirteen member states including France, Germany and Austria do not support the extension, the people said. Poland and Hungary also propose transferring financial support directly to Ukrainian exporters, which France disagrees with, they added.
Ukraine has warned that it will challenge any extension of the grain import ban with an arbitration panel. It has been relying on export channels to EU neighbors after Russia pulled out of a grain deal that allowed exports via its Black Sea ports. In April, Poland banned imports after demonstrations by farmers complaining about a grain influx reducing their prices, which was followed by other four bordering states.
The lower prices came amid a broader global downturn, as large grain harvests in major shippers from Russia to Brazil eased supply worries triggered by the invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy complained Wednesday against further restrictions while other countries that process Ukrainian agricultural products make money from the logistics and transit.
“We need these funds,” he said in a videocall to the Three Seas Initiative Summit in Bucharest. “For us it’s a matter of survival against Russian terror.”
Romania has so far facilitated the transit of over 25 million tons of grains from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion started, and aims to double its monthly capacity to 4 million tons from a current 2 million tons, according to President Klaus Iohannis.
–With assistance from Daryna Krasnolutska and Megan Durisin.
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