BULGARIA- Bulgaria has reportedly yielded to pressure from local farmers by implementing an import ban on sunflower seeds from Ukraine.

Speaking at a press briefing this week, Bulgarian Prime Minister Mykola Denkov announced his intention to impose an import quota on sunflower seeds from Ukraine, as reported by the pan-European news service Euractiv.

Denkov stated that he would inform his Ukrainian counterpart, Denys Shmyhal, about this decision. Until then, imports of the commodity will not be allowed.

A ban on Ukraine grain imports into five East European countries – Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria – that was supported by the European Commission, was suspended last Friday (15 September) upon its expiry. The ban was implemented in May.

Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, however, decided to continue enforcing the ban independently from the EC after 15 September. This decision was made to protect local farmers from cheap imports from their embattled neighbor.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria lifted restrictions along with Romania. However, reports this week suggested that Romania was considering reimposing temporary curbs.

Bulgaria’s decision prompted protests from local farmers, who initiated road blockades in the capital Sofia for two days. They called for a continued ban on sunflower seeds, wheat, maize, and rapeseed from Ukraine.

Regarding sunflower seeds: I will be discussing this soon with the Prime Minister of Ukraine. I will inform you about the results of the discussions and that there will be a specific quota for Bulgaria,” Russia’s Interfax news agency reported Denkov as saying.

This quota will be what is allowed for import into Bulgaria, but only after we set its volume. In the near term, we will not allow imports of Ukrainian sunflower seeds.

Before imposing quotas on sunflower seeds, Denkov stated, according to Euractiv, that local producers and processors must reach a consensus on the acceptable quantity of imports from Ukraine.

For other commodities such as wheat, maize, and rapeseed, Denkov said he would hold meetings with the European Commission (EC) and Ukraine to discuss the import issue, as reported by the publication.

Newswire service SeeNews suggested that the ban on sunflower seed imports from Ukraine into Bulgaria would last until the end of November. After that, quotas would be introduced. ‘Licensing rules’ are also being considered for wheat, maize, and rapeseed in agreement with the European Union and Ukraine, the publication said, adding that similar proposals for milk powder and honey are on the block.

The decision by Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia to continue with a ban on grain imports prompted a backlash from Germany, France, and Spain this week, while Ukraine took its case to the World Trade Organization.

In May, the five European Union members, supported by the EC, implemented a ban on imports of grain and certain other food products from Ukraine. This measure was taken to safeguard prices for local farmers. The European Commission extended the deal in June.

Ukraine has become increasingly reliant on alternative EU export routes, known as Solidarity Lanes, for its grain exports. This dependence has grown since July when Russia terminated the agreement that had previously allowed Ukrainian grains to be transported through its Black Sea ports.

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