EU countries announce new import measures as elections approach

17 Apr 2023 | Veronika Prykhodko

Several EU members have announced measures to stop or reduce the flow of Ukrainian agricultural goods into their countries in an effort to support local farmers as the new crop, and elections, are approaching in Poland, Slovakia, and Bulgaria.

In the meantime, the European Commission (EC) is considering introducing any restricting measures as a whole economic bloc to avoid each state acting on its own.

“We are aware of Poland and Hungary’s announcements regarding the ban on imports of grain and other agricultural products from Ukraine. We are requesting further information from the relevant authorities to be able to assess the measures,” a statement from an EU spokesperson said.

“In this context, it is important to underline that trade policy is of EU exclusive competence and, therefore, unilateral actions are not acceptable. In such challenging times, it is crucial to coordinate and align all decisions within the EU,” the statement continued.

Market sources consider the move political, as elections loom and candidates are trying to get additional support from one of its biggest electorate groups – local farmers, who have contended with big stocks due to slower than usual farmer selling at the beginning of the season.

“All the countries, which have elections soon are trying to win points with the farmers,” a trader told Agricensus.

Market sources also expressed views on alternative measures that could be taken in regards to the flow of Ukrainian goods instead of banning both the imports and transit via solidarity lanes, suggesting increasing quality and documentation control as well as building new storage capacities to avoid logistical bottlenecks and cost increases.

“To have bigger control of quality checking - yes, but banning – no,” a Bulgaria-based broker commented.

“Bulgaria is not discussing a ban, but the state is trying to limit the imports from Ukraine, as they believe that the big imports are distorting the market and making the local farmers lose money,” another broker told Agricensus.

“I don't feel [that] is totally fair, as the farmers made their choice when they decided not to sell their goods in July-September, but to wait for higher prices,” the broker said.

As of April 17, Slovakia has announced a temporary import ban on Ukrainian goods, introducing special transit rules, where the trucks and railway wagons need to be sealed upon crossing the border, while Poland and Hungary have recently implemented import bans as well as transit restrictions.

Meanwhile, Russia’s representatives stopped vessel inspections in Istanbul on Monday, April 17, which lead to further escalations in the export corridor uncertainty, with the market and global grains and oilseeds futures reacting accordingly.

Both Ukraine and Russia were off for a public holiday after the Orthodox Easter, which could be a reason for a hold in operations, but it still pushed Euronext’s front rapeseeds contract up by €22/mt to €461.25/mt, while wheat gained €5.50/mt and closed at €255.50/mt.