Slovakia’s move to join Poland and Hungary in halting grain imports from Ukraine in a bid to protect local farmers has been condemned by the European Commission (EC) and Kyiv, The Guardian wrote.
The EU said it would expect the central European states “to come up with some explanation”, a senior official was quoted as saying in the 17 April report, after Poland and Hungary announced their bans and Slovakia followed on the day of the report, with Bulgaria also saying it was considering a ban.
In response to the announcements, the EC said it was considering introducing restricting measures as a whole economic bloc to avoid each state acting independently, AgriCensus reported on 17 April.
According to the official, low global prices and demand meant large quantities of Ukrainian grain in particular were staying in the bloc rather than being sold on, adding: “There is an issue … we’ll see what we can do in the coming weeks and months.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, some Black Sea ports had been blocked and Ukrainian grain – which is significantly cheaper than grain produced in the EU – ended up staying in central Europe mainly due to logistical bottlenecks.
The resulting glut and price crash had hit local farmers hard and posed a pressing political problem, in particular for Poland’s governing nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has otherwise been one of Ukraine’s most ardent supporters but relies on support from rural voters and faces a tight election this year, according to The Guardian.
With urgent talks underway in Warsaw between Ukraine and Poland to aim to find a resolution, Ukraine’s agriculture minister Mykola Solsky was quoted as saying that grain from the country should at least be allowed to transit through Poland.
“The first step … should be the opening of transit, because it is quite important and it is the thing that should be done unconditionally, and after that we will talk about other things,” he said.
Solsky said Ukrainian agricultural products shipped to and through Poland represented about 10% of the country’s total food exports – a vital sector of its war-ravaged economy – with Hungary accounting for a further 6%.
Hungary’s agriculture minister, István Nagy was quoted as saying that Budapest’s ban on imports from Ukraine of grain and oilseeds, as well as other farm products including fruits, vegetables, dairy, beef, pork and eggs, would last until 30 June.
As of 17 April, Slovakia had announced a temporary import ban on Ukrainian goods, introducing special transit rules requiring trucks and railway wagons to be sealed on crossing the border, the report said. Poland and Hungary’s import bans also included transit restrictions.
Meanwhile, inspections of vessels waiting to exit or enter the Ukrainian Black Sea were suspended for a second consecutive day on 18 April, trade sources were quoted as saying by AgriCensus on the same day.
The inspections are part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, signed in July 2022 and brokered by the United Nations (UN) and Turkey, to allow food exports from the Ukrainian ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi.
While some trade sources had said the 17 April suspension could have been classified as a day off following the Orthodox Easter celebration, inspections had not resumed the following day, AgriCensus wrote.
At the time of the report, around 50 vessels were waiting for inspection, including 45 inbound vessels, with the UN unable to comment on the situation at the time.
The delays followed another stoppage on 11 April, which the UN said had occurred to give all parties time to reach an agreement on operational priorities, AgriCensus wrote. Since 10 April, the Russian side of the Joint Coordination Center (SCC) implementing the initiative had unilaterally stopped registering vessels submitted by Ukrainian ports to form an inspection plan.
Russia had continued to form its own inspection plan by choosing vessels from the queue at its discretion, AgriCensus wrote.
Russia has blamed Ukraine for the delays in inspections, saying it had ignored the order of vessels “prescribed in the rules of procedure or the requirements for screening”, AgriCensus quoted a Russian statement made last week.