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Five EU members sign letter to Brussels demanding customs duties on Ukrainian food products

by Dominic Culverwell January 15, 2024 7:09 PM 2 min read
A farmer plants seed outside of Kupyansk, Kharkiv Oblast. Sept. 6, 2023. (Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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The EU members bordering Ukraine appealed to Brussels to impose customs duties on Ukrainian agricultural products, claiming local farmers are suffering significant losses, Hungary’s Agriculture Minister Istvan Nagy said on Jan. 15.

The agriculture ministries of Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia sent a letter to Brussels requesting solutions for farmers in the eastern EU states. They claim that cheaper Ukrainian products are undercutting local farmers, burdening agricultural production.

“Brussels must introduce measures that protect the markets of the member states bordering Ukraine, while at the same time providing them with the opportunity to exploit their export potential,” Nagy wrote on his website.

“One such possibility could be the introduction of customs duties for the most sensitive agricultural product.”

The EU introduced a free trade agreement for Ukraine to overcome export restrictions following Russia’s full-scale invasion and the blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia became alternative export routes, agitating local farmers.

The minister noted that the five EU members produce significantly more wheat and corn than they need, adding that it is essential that local farmers contribute to Europe’s food security.

The letter also calls on the European Commission (EC) to report on Ukraine’s production standards to ensure they meet those set by the EU.

Tensions over the influx of Ukraine’s agricultural products escalated last spring, resulting in the five EU members introducing a unilateral ban on the import of Ukrainian food goods.

Following the dispute, the EU imposed restrictions that allowed the countries to ban the domestic sale of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seed while still permitting the transit of these products for exports elsewhere.

Although the ban expired on Sept. 15, 2023, the rows have continued, and Romanian farmers began blocking trucks at two crossings in western Ukraine on Jan. 13 and 14. The farmers allege that cheap Ukrainian grain has caused them to lose income over the last two years.

The EC previously formed a joint coordination platform to tackle bottleneck issues, with participation from Ukraine and the five states.

In September, Kyiv pledged to take action to tighten export controls to neighboring countries.

Following the continuation of the embargo, the Ukrainian government appealed to the World Trade Organization to prove that the restrictions were “legally wrong."

Polish farmers resume blockade at Poland-Ukraine border crossing
Roman Kondrow, the leader of a Polish farmers’ organization, “Betrayed Countryside,” involved in the protest, has demanded written assurances about subsidies for growing corn, increased loans, and maintenance of the agricultural tax at the current rate.
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