Poland and Hungary have imposed a ban on imports of grain and other food products from Ukraine, citing the need to protect their agricultural sectors after a surge in supply had depressed prices across the region. Large quantities of Ukrainian grain had been stranded in Central Europe due to logistical bottlenecks resulting from the blockade of Black Sea ports by Russia. This had hit prices and sales for local farmers in Poland and Hungary. In a letter sent to the European Commission last month, the prime ministers of five Eastern European countries had called for tariffs on Ukrainian agricultural imports to be considered.
The surplus of supply has created a political headache for Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), as the country gears up for an election year, and with the economy struggling with stagflation. At a party convention, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski announced that the government would prohibit the entry and importation of grain into Poland, along with dozens of other food products from Ukraine. The list of these goods, ranging from honey to grain products, will be included in government regulations, he said.
Ukraine has expressed regret over the Polish decision, stating that resolving issues through unilateral drastic actions will not lead to a positive resolution of the situation. The country’s Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food has said that the Polish ban contradicts existing bilateral agreements and has called for talks to resolve the issue. It also pointed out that while it understood the plight of Polish farmers, Ukrainian farmers are currently in the most difficult situation.
The Hungarian government has joined the ban on grain and other food imports from Ukraine, with Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s administration citing the potential damage to local farmers. While Hungary has not provided details on when its ban will come into effect, it has stated that it will expire at the end of June. Both Poland and Hungary have called for changes to EU regulations, including a re-think on the elimination of import duties on Ukrainian produce.
The oversupply of Ukrainian grain has hit local farmers as the country’s grain is cheaper than that produced in the European Union. The situation is politically sensitive given the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. The EU has been trying to boost trade with Ukraine in order to strengthen the country in the face of Russian aggression.
The situation has put Poland’s Law and Justice Party in a tough spot during an election year. The country’s economy is currently facing stagflation, and the oversupply has only made matters worse. As a result, the party announced a ban on imports of grain and other food from Ukraine, to protect their own agricultural sectors.
The move follows a letter from the prime ministers of five eastern European countries to the European Commission last month, calling for tariffs to be considered on Ukrainian agricultural imports. The oversupply resulted from logistical issues that kept large quantities of Ukrainian grain in Central Europe, rather than being shipped out via the Black Sea.
Ukraine expressed disappointment at the ban, stating that “resolving various issues by unilateral drastic actions will not accelerate a positive resolution of the situation.” The country’s agrarian ministry added that the ban contradicts existing bilateral agreements and has called for talks with Poland and Hungary.
While Hungary’s ban will expire at the end of June, no details have yet been given about when it will take effect. Poland’s Law and Justice Party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said that a list of banned items, including honey and grain products, would be included in government regulations. However, he stressed that Poland remained an ally of Ukraine and was willing to start talks to resolve the issue. Hungary has called for changes in EU regulations, including a re-think of the elimination of import duties on Ukrainian produce.
The Ukrainian surplus has hit local farmers hard, as Ukrainian grain is cheaper than that produced in the European Union. The issue of imports from Ukraine is also politically sensitive, given the ongoing conflict between the country and Russia. The EU has sought to increase trade with Ukraine, in order to bolster the country in the face of Russian aggression.
The ban on Ukrainian imports is likely to exacerbate tensions between Ukraine and its neighbours, particularly Poland and Hungary. However, the move has been welcomed by local farmers, who have struggled to compete with the low prices of Ukrainian produce. It remains to be seen how the situation will develop, but it is clear that the issue of Ukrainian imports will continue to be a thorny one for all parties involved.