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KYIV, April 17 (Reuters) – Kyiv aims to reopen food and grain transit through Poland as a “first step” to end import bans at talks in Warsaw on Monday as the countries have stopped grain from Ukraine to protect their local agricultural markets from a supply glut.
Poland and Hungary announced a ban on some imports from Ukraine on Saturday. Slovakia said on Monday it would do the same and other central and eastern European countries said they were also considering action.
Several Black Sea ports were blocked after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February last year and large quantities of Ukrainian grain – which is cheaper than it is produced in the European Union – ended up staying in Central European countries. European due to logistical bottlenecks.
Local farmers say this has driven down prices and reduced their sales and asked European Union governments to take action.
“The first step, in our opinion, should be the opening of transit, because it is very important and it is the thing that must be done unconditionally and after that we will talk about other things, ” said Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture Mykola Solsky.
About 10% of food products exported by Ukraine cross the Polish border, Solsky said in comments published on the Agriculture Ministry’s Telegram messaging app. Deliveries to Hungary accounted for about 6% of Ukraine’s farm exports, he said.
Ukraine is holding additional talks this week in Romania on Wednesday, and in Slovakia on Thursday, Solsky added.
The Polish embargo, in effect since Saturday night, has also been applied to transit in the country to prevent grain transport from entering the Polish market.
“The ultimate goal is not that the import ban will be enforced indefinitely, but to ensure that the grain from Ukraine, which should be exported, goes (where it’s going),” the Polish Deputy said Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski on radio station RMF.
Talks between Ukraine and Poland are due to start in Warsaw around 12:00 pm (1000 GMT) on Monday, Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus told TVP Info.
Joint ACTION in the EU is ‘INEVITABLE’
Meanwhile, Ukrainian import barriers look set to rise.
Slovakia plans to temporarily stop importing grains and other selected products from Ukraine, a government spokesman said on Monday.
Hungary’s agriculture minister, Istvan Nagy, said a solution was needed that went beyond the national level. “Joint European action and EU measures are inevitable,” he said.
The prime ministers of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia raised the issue in a letter to the European Commission last month. They said that tariffs on Ukrainian imports should be considered, and the states also pushed for a purchase mechanism to buy cheap grain.
A senior EU official said EU envoys were to discuss the Polish and Hungarian bans this week – after the bloc’s executive said on Sunday that unilateral action was unacceptable.
The official said there is an issue because low prices and demand around the world mean grain is staying on the block rather than being sold.
Ukraine normally exports its agricultural products, especially grain, through its Black Sea ports that were unblocked in July under an agreement between Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and the United Nations.
That agreement is set to expire on May 18 and Moscow said last week it could not be extended unless the West removed barriers to Russian grain and fertilizer exports.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Timothy Heritage
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