EUROPE – The EU Commission has proposed measures to curb imports of grains and oilseeds from Russia and Belarus in response to the ongoing challenges faced by European Union (EU) farmers amidst falling prices and adverse crop conditions. 

These measures, pending approval from member states, are anticipated to alleviate the strain on EU farmers while addressing various concerns regarding the influx of Russian grain into the market.

CRM Agri, a leading agricultural market analyst, suggests that EU farmers will welcome these curbs, especially considering the backdrop of a significant increase in Ukrainian grain imports following the Black Sea conflict. 

While Russian grain imports into the EU have totaled 1.8 million metric tons (Mt) up to February this season, they pale in comparison to imports from Ukraine. Nonetheless, they have remained contentious among EU farmers.

The proposed tariffs, targeting cereals, oilseeds, and related products from Russia and Belarus, aim to limit their importation into the EU. This move is expected to prevent market destabilization within the EU, curb the illegal mislabeling of Ukrainian grain as Russian, and disrupt Russia’s ability to fund aggression against Ukraine through grain exports.

Under the proposed tariffs, products such as wheat, maize, and sunflower meal would face higher tariffs, either €95 per ton (US$103/t) or a 50% ad valorem duty. Furthermore, Russia and Belarus would lose access to certain World Trade Organization (WTO) quotas on grain products.

While Russia exported 4.2 million tons of cereals and oilseeds to the EU in 2023, valued at €1.3 billion (approximately US$1.41 billion), and Belarus exported 610,000 tons worth €246 million  (approximately US$186.4 million), these imports represent only a fraction of the EU’s overall supply. 

The EU Commission anticipates that the reduction in imports from Russia and Belarus will be compensated for by increased domestic production and imports from other traditional suppliers such as the US, Brazil, Ukraine, Serbia, and Argentina.

The decision to include Belarus alongside Russia in these measures stems from Belarus’s close political and economic ties with Russia, as well as its support for Russian actions in Ukraine. Excluding Belarus could potentially enable Russia to bypass EU tariffs by channeling goods through Belarus.

Importantly, these tariffs allow for continued transit, trading operations, storage, transportation, and ancillary services related to Russian grain within the EU, unlike sanctions which might completely halt such activities.

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