EU to curb Ukraine farm imports

Ukraine hopes controls will end neighbours' import bans
calendar icon 1 February 2024
clock icon 3 minute read

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed measures to limit agricultural imports from Ukraine and offer greater flexibility on rules for fallow land in a bid to quell protests by angry farmers in France and other EU members, reported Reuters

The Commission said it would extend the suspension of import duties on Ukrainian exports for another year to June 2025. They were originally suspended in 2022 to support Ukraine's economy following the Russian invasion, which has hit shipments via the traditional Black Sea route.

The Commission proposal, which will require approval from EU governments and the European Parliament, introduces an "emergency brake" for the most sensitive products - poultry, eggs and sugar - allowing tariffs if imports exceed the average levels of 2022 and 2023.

It also allows the Commission to impose measures if the markets of one or more EU members are disrupted by a surge of imports of other farm produce, such as grains. In critical cases, these could be in place 21 days after a request is made.

Ukraine's EU neighbours - Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia - have complained that the farm imports have upset their markets, leading to protests by farmers and truckers.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal welcomed the proposed extension and expressed hope that the controls would avoid future conflicts.

"We also expect that the measures developed will remove harmful unilateral bans on the import of our agricultural products from Poland, Slovakia and Hungary," he said in a post on Telegram messenger.

With polls pointing to gains by the far-right in European Parliament elections in June, French President Emmanuel Macron, also called on Tuesday for clear measures on Ukrainian imports. French farmers have been protesting for more than two weeks over rising costs and cheap food imports.

Arnaud Rousseau, head of France's main farmers' union FNSEA, said the Commission was acting "woefully" late, that controls were required immediately and that the emergency brake limits should be set at 2022 levels.

EU sugar imports from Ukraine rose 1,000% in 2023, while egg imports more than doubled and poultry imports were 50% higher.

Philippe Gelin, head of France's largest poultry group LDC, also called the reference dates, including 2023, problematic.

French and Belgian farmers set up dozens of blockades on highways and on access roads to a container port on Wednesday, a day before an EU summit.

The Commission also proposed exempting EU farmers for 2024 from a requirement to keep a minimum share of their land fallow while still receiving EU farm support payments.

Farmers could instead grow nitrogen-fixing crops such as lentils or peas or catch crops that grow between plantings of a main crop, without applying plant protection products.

The Commission has also proposed to renew for a year the duty suspension for imports from Moldova until July 2025.

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