EUROPE – The European Union (EU) has announced restrictions on grain imports from Ukraine in response to mounting pressure from farmers grappling with cheap imports. 

The decision comes as a concession following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which triggered concerns about the impact on European agriculture.

Under the agreement, Ukrainian food producers will continue to enjoy tariff-free access to EU markets until June 2025. 

However, the European Parliament has introduced an “emergency brake” mechanism for poultry, eggs, sugar, and now grain. This mechanism would impose tariffs if imports surpass average levels recorded in 2022 and 2023.

The deal, finalized in the early hours of March 20, has faced criticism from various quarters. Copa-Cocega, representing 22 million EU farmers, expressed dissatisfaction, citing concerns about the exclusion of wheat and the choice of reference years. 

In a social media post, the organization deemed the proposal unacceptable.

France’s Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, echoed these sentiments, stating that the agreement fell short of expectations. 

Fesneau advocated for import caps based on the 2021-2023 average and emphasized the need for broader inclusion of cereals, particularly wheat.

Negotiations between the European Parliament and the Belgian EU presidency led to the inclusion of oats, maize, groats, and honey in the list of products subject to potential tariffs. 

Additionally, the European Commission committed to swift action within 14 days, instead of the initially proposed 21 days, if trigger levels for imports were exceeded.

In a statement, the European Parliament emphasized the Commission’s readiness to intervene in case of significant disruption to EU markets due to Ukrainian imports. Firm commitments were secured to address any surge in wheat imports from Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal welcomed the interim deal as “good news,” highlighting its importance amid ongoing geopolitical tensions. 

Sandra Kalniete, a Member of the European Parliament, stressed the impact of Russia’s aggression on Ukrainian food production and its repercussions for EU farmers. 

She emphasized the need for safeguard measures to alleviate pressure on EU farmers in the event of a sudden influx of Ukrainian imports.

Several EU member states, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, have voiced concerns about the adverse effects of cheaper Ukrainian imports on domestic agriculture. 

The agreement reflects ongoing efforts to strike a balance between trade interests and safeguarding the interests of European farmers amidst evolving geopolitical dynamics.

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