Poland bans food imports from Ukraine to reassure farmers
Poland’s government said on Saturday it had decided to temporarily ban grain and other food imports from Ukraine in a bid to appease growing anger from Polish farmers who say they are losing huge amounts of money to a flood of Ukrainian grain at the market.
Ruling party leader Jarosław Kaczyński told a party congress in eastern Poland that the Polish country was facing a “moment of crisis” and that while Poland supported Ukraine, it was forced to take measures to protect its peasants.
“Today the government passed a decree banning the import of grain, but also dozens of other foods into Poland,” said Kaczyński.
The government announced that the import ban would last until June 30. The regulation also includes an import ban on sugar, eggs, meat, milk and other dairy products, and fruit and vegetables.
Farmers in neighboring countries have also complained that Ukrainian grain is flooding their lands, causing a flood that has caused prices to plummet – and caused them to suffer heavy losses.
“Increasing imports of agricultural products from Ukraine are causing serious disruption in our countries’ markets, great damage to producers and social unrest,” Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus told his counterparts from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary this week . All are members of the European Union and he said the bloc should take urgent action on the matter.
“We cannot accept a situation where the entire burden of dealing with increased imports falls mainly on the farmers from our countries,” Telus said.
The situation is the result of Russia. After Russia blocked traditional sea routes for export, the European Union lifted tariffs on Ukrainian grain to make it easier to transport to Africa and the Middle East.
Since then, grain has flowed into Poland, but much of it has not made it further into the Middle East and North Africa as envisaged in the EU plan.
The Polish government has tried to blame the EU for the situation. However, some unions and opposition politicians accuse pro-government companies of causing the problem by buying up cheap, low-quality Ukrainian grain and then selling it to bread and pasta factories as a high-quality Polish product.
Tomasz Obszański from the Solidarność farmers’ union said that around 3 million tons of grain destined for Africa was received by traders as soon as the grain arrived in Poland, and he claimed that some companies made huge money from this situation.
The leader of the protesting farmers and head of the AgroUnia group, Michał Kołodziejczak, estimated the farmers’ losses at up to 10 billion zlotys ($2.3 billion).
Growing peasant anger comes ahead of an election in the fall and is a headache for the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party as it seeks a third term. Polls show it’s the country’s most popular party but could fall short of a majority in the next parliament.
She faces a particular challenge from a far-right party, the Confederacy, which combines libertarian and nationalist views and includes some members believed to be pro-Russian. The party has emerged as the third most popular party in some polls.
Kaczyński also announced other measures aimed at helping farmers on Saturday, including maintaining fertilizer subsidies.