BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — Reacting to recent decisions by Poland and Hungary to ban grain imports from Ukraine, the European Commission said on April 16 that the unilateral moves by these European Union members “will not be tolerated.”
“In such challenging times, it is crucial to coordinate and align all decisions within the EU,” EU Commission spokesperson Arianna Podestà said.
The two countries said the bans, which include grain and other agricultural products, were necessary because the influx of Ukrainian ag commodities had caused prices to plummet, severely impacting domestic producers.
Hungarian and Polish leaders said the temporary import restriction is scheduled to last through June as solutions are sought to rectify the problem.
During the first five months after its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Russian forces blockaded Ukrainian ports, preventing grain from being exported. The blockade was lifted in July 2022 as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. Still, grain shipments from Ukraine, which in recent years has been a leading exporter of wheat and corn, lag far behind pre-war totals.
Addressing Poland’s decision, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food said the measure contradicts bilateral trade agreements.
“We understand that Polish farmers are in a difficult situation, but we emphasize that Ukrainian farmers are in the most difficult situation right now,” it said. “It is on the territory of Ukraine the war is taking place, namely Ukrainian farmers are suffering enormous losses from Russia’s war against Ukraine, and namely Ukrainian farmers are dying on their fields because of Russian mines. At the same time, Ukrainian agricultural producers are responsive to the needs of their Polish counterparts, hope for mutual understanding and expect a constructive dialogue to make an agreed decision.”
The announcement by Poland and Hungary comes as Russia said its continued support for the Black Sea Grain Initiative is in doubt unless economic sanctions that it claims are impeding its grain and fertilizer exports are removed.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative recently was extended 60 days to May 18.