Grain restrictions on Ukraine by its neighbors
The conflict in Ukraine has severely disrupted the export of commodities, impacting one of the world’s leading grain exporters due to its favourable geographic location. Since the onset of the conflict, Ukrainian farmers have had to rely on grain exports through neighbouring countries as the use of Black Sea ports has become challenging.
The European Union (EU) established alternative land routes, known as “Solidarity Lanes,” to facilitate Ukraine’s grain and oilseeds exports. However, the increased volume of products entering neighbouring countries led to reduced prices, affecting the income of local farmers. Consequently, several governments began imposing bans on agricultural imports from Ukraine. In response to these unilateral bans, the EU intervened in May to enable Ukraine to continue exporting through these countries, with the products finding markets elsewhere. The EU allowed this ban to expire on September 15, following Ukraine’s commitment to enhance export controls.
Nevertheless, three countries—Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary—swiftly implemented their own restrictions.
“The ban covers four cereals, but at my request and at the request of our farmers, it has been extended to include products derived from these cereals, such as corn, wheat, and rapeseed. This step is aimed at safeguarding the Polish market,” stated Robert Telus, the Polish Agriculture Minister. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki added, “We will persist with this ban despite their disagreement and despite the European Commission’s objections. We do so because it is in the interest of Polish farmers.” Hungary also issued a national import ban on 24 Ukrainian agricultural products, including grains, vegetables, various meat products, and honey, as per a government decree. Slovakia’s agriculture minister followed suit by announcing its own grain ban.
It’s important to note that these bans solely affect domestic imports and do not impact transit to other markets.
In response, Ukraine has decided to file lawsuits against these three countries with the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukraine’s Economy Minister, emphasized the significance of proving that individual member states cannot unilaterally ban Ukrainian imports. She stated, “It is crucially important for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban imports of Ukrainian goods. That is why we are filing lawsuits against them (Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary) with the WTO.” Despite Poland and Slovakia being key allies of Ukraine in its conflict against the Russian invasion, the dispute over grain imports has led to tensions.