Conflicts & War

Ukraine slams Poland’s ‘unjustified’, ‘illegal’ ban on Ukrainian imports

By Marcel Gascon

Kyiv, Apr 26 (EFE).- Kyiv has slammed Poland’s recent move to ban the sale of Ukrainian grain and food exports as “unjustified” and “illegal,” Ukraine’s trade chief told Efe in an interview Wednesday.

“For us, all these measures are unjustified and illegal,” said Taras Kachka, who is also deputy minister of economy.

“We addressed this with the (European) Commission because rules have been violated and they agreed with us,” the lawmaker added. “We expect the Commission will find a solution that will restore normal trade with (EU) member states.”

Kachka said Russia has taken advantage of Poland’s ban by blocking Ukraine’s grain exports through the Black Sea corridor which was established in July last year.

“Russia has seen the situation, what is happening on our western border, and they have immediately stopped any work within the corridor and now say they don’t want to extend (the agreement),” the minister continued.

“They just increase pressure, eat popcorn and enjoy our discussion with Poland.”

Warsaw’s move to unilaterally ban Ukrainian grain and food imports, a measure that has been adopted by other Eastern European countries including Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, violates trade agreements penned between the EU and Kyiv.

They argue that the large volumes of cheap Ukrainian products that have flooded their markets pose a threat to their domestic agricultural sectors.

When Russia blocked exports along the Black Sea in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine in February last year, vast amounts of Ukrainian food and grain products destined for international markets were stuck in the country and ended up staying in Europe.

Ukrainian products trade at cheaper prices than those produced in the EU, and the bottleneck, Poland says, has affected prices and local farmers.

In a bid to boost its agricultural sector, the Polish government initially banned the entry of food imports from Ukraine, but later rectified the measure to allow the transit of Ukrainian agricultural products but not their sale.

“It is hypocritical because in reality agriculture is more than just grain. It’s about vegetables, dairy products, pork, meat, poultry, and Poland increased its production of dairy, pork and poultry to Germany, to the west, because they used access to cheap Ukrainian corn,” Kachka denounced.

Kyiv’s trade officer added that as the grain export season kicked off in January and February, Ukrainian grain saturated the Polish market and affected local producers.

But according to Kachka the “bottleneck” was linked to the harvest cycle and, he says, any trade issues have now been resolved, with Polish farmers and those from neighboring nations, able to sell their products again.

The trade official added that many Polish farmers were not shifting their product at the time because the government had pledged subsidies and additional payments for every ton of grain and food that was sold.

“But the Polish government still has no money for it and that’s why the Commission has said, ‘OK, we can give you money but please restore normal function of trade with Ukraine,’” Kachka continued.

Following the sudden hike in the price of grain following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many Polish farmers preferred not to sell their products due to the uncertainty caused by the war. But prices are now returning to pre-war levels and “this has caused frustration”, he said.

According to Kachka, the issue is likely more political than commercial with the Polish general elections slated for late 2023.

“Under normal circumstances, I would immediately block the same Polish products that Poland is blocking. This would significantly affect Polish farmers and we would end up agreeing to trade again,” the deputy minister added.

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