Frustration and fury: Eastern European farmers rail against Ukrainian grain imports

A woman holds a loaf of bread during a farmers' protest in front of the Representative Office of the European Commission in Bucharest, Romania, on, April 7, 2023.
A woman holds a loaf of bread during a farmers' protest in front of the Representative Office of the European Commission in Bucharest, Romania, on, April 7, 2023. Copyright AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru, File
By Euronews
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Farmers say they support the transit of Ukrainian goods through Europe, but not at the expense of their local economies.

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Iliya Prodanov from the Bulgarian Grain Producers Association is worried. He says: "The past months have been a real test. At the moment, a large part of our harvest is still in storage because the price of sunflower seeds was lower than the production price for a few months."

Like many in Eastern Europe, farmers in Bulgaria have delayed selling their products while waiting for prices to rise. But with the harvest approaching, time is running out. They have been disputing this matter for several weeks.

They denounce the ineffectiveness of the so-called solidarity corridors – tax-free transit routes for Ukrainian goods on roads, rails and in European ports.

Farmers say they support the transit of Ukrainian goods through Europe, but not at the expense of their local economies.

Iliya Prodanov says: "It is not a problem for us to transport all the production, but at the moment the transit is not a real transit. The goods stay here in Bulgaria".

In response, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia have spoken out in favour of an import ban on Ukrainian grain.

They want to be able to control the quantity of Ukrainian grain. These are measures that violate European law.

Economist Armin Steinbach says: "A single member state cannot unilaterally impose trade restrictions on a third party. In the EU, competence in trade policy and in the adoption of trade measures lies exclusively with the EU and the European Commission."

To appease the affected countries, the EU has offered more than €150 million in emergency aid to farmers.

Romania and Poland have now suspended the ban on the transit of Ukrainian grain after the EU said that any aid would be dependent on the withdrawal of restrictions.

EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer says: "The measures proposed by the Commission now depend on countries withdrawing their unilateral measures so that we can move towards a European framework."

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