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Polish EU commissioner seeks restrictions on Ukrainian sugar, poultry

by Martin Fornusek January 5, 2024 8:41 PM 2 min read
Current European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski. (European Parliament website)
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European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said he wants new restrictions on Ukrainian agricultural imports as the Commission mulls the extension of the free trade regime with Ukraine until 2025, the Polish radio RMF24 reported on Jan. 5.

The flow of cheaper agricultural produce from Ukraine, one of the world's leading producers, sparked worries among European farmers and governments about uneven competition and risks to domestic production.

Wojciechowski, an EU commissioner from Poland, unofficially threatened to withdraw his support for continued trade liberalization with Ukraine if his conditions are not met, RMF24 reported. Following the latest extension, the agreement is set to expire on June 5.

The commisoner's homeland has been at the forefront of the grain imports dispute with Kyiv. Polish Agriculture Minister Czeslaw Siekerski said on Jan. 4 that the embargo on Ukrainian grain would continue "indefinitely."

Speaking to RMF24, Wojciechowski said that he demands protective clauses and quantitative restrictions, particularly on poultry meat and sugar from Ukraine.

"My big task for 2024 is to ensure that the new regulation – if issued – introduces sufficiently strong protective clauses so that no oversupply crisis happens again," the commissioner commented.

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Following the outbreak of Russia's all-out war against Ukraine and threats to Black Sea shipping, the EU temporarily lifted restrictions on Ukrainian imports in June 2022.

The resulting influx of Ukrainian goods caused logistical bottlenecks and pushed down prices in several neighboring countries. After an appeal by Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia, the EU temporarily banned grain and several other select agricultural goods between May and September 2023.

Poland was one of the countries that had prolonged the embargo unilaterally after its expiration. Polish farmers currently block one of the crossings with Ukraine, demanding governmental subsidies and other support in fear of Ukrainian competition.

The EU Commission's deputy director for agriculture, Pierre Bascou, said in early December that he does not see very significant adverse effects on European markets by Ukrainian goods.

He nevertheless admitted that "some vulnerability and risk" had been identified in sectors like poultry, eggs, and sugar. Imports of these products have been on the rise recently, pushing down prices within the European bloc.

Not all EU officials share Wojciechowski's position. Valdis Dombrovskis, the commissioner for trade, wants to weaken the existing clauses and eliminate the possibility of temporary EU bans like the one introduced last year.

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