BUDAPEST (Reuters) – The European Union’s eastern states are demanding the EU impose import duties on Ukraine grains, citing unfair competition, Hungary’s agricultural ministry said on Monday.
The ministry said the farm ministers from Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia had sent a letter to the European Commission requesting the measures, saying cheaper agricultural products from Ukraine are eating into their export markets.
The five signatories are among six EU member states that produce significantly more wheat and maize than they need, which is key for European food safety and the EU’s strategic sovereignty, the ministers said.
“This is why Brussels needs to introduce measures that protect the markets of member states bordering Ukraine while helping them make use of their full export potential,” the letter signed by the ministers including Hungary’s Farm Minister Istvan Nagy, said.
“One of these [measures] could be introducing import duties on the most sensitive agricultural products.”
Ukraine’s larger farm sizes make the country’s grain exports cheaper and that is pushing EU farmers out of their traditional export markets, the ministers said.
Farmers in Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia “have suffered significant damages” since the EU suspended import quotas and customs on grain from Ukraine last year, they said.
The ministers are also calling on the European Commission, the bloc’s executive, to examine in a report whether Ukraine’s production guidelines are in line with EU standards.
The complaints were addressed to EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and Farm Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski.
Grain exports have been a rare source of tension between Kyiv and its EU neighbours as Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia became alternative transit routes for Ukrainian grain to help offset slower exports via Ukraine’s Black Sea ports after the Russian invasion in 2022.
Farmers in those countries protested these shipments, claiming that they were distorting local markets.
Poland, Slovakia and Hungary announced restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports last September after the European Commission decided not to extend a ban on imports into Ukraine’s five EU neighbours.
All three bans only apply to domestic imports and do not affect transit to onward markets.
Ukraine responded by complaining to the World Trade Organization against the three countries, while other EU members condemned the unilateral moves.
(Reporting by Anita Komuves; Editing by Susan Fenton)