On January 30-31, 2023, the EU Council of Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries and the European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development met in Brussels to discuss, among other things, Ukraine's preferential trade regime with the EU.
Poland initiated the discussion of the possibility of abolishing or reducing Ukraine's preferential trade regime with the EU, as the growth of imports created certain problems in the border countries: imports of Ukrainian sunflower to Bulgaria increased from about 3 thousand tons in 2021 to 892 thousand tons in 2022. Moreover, the growth of Ukrainian exports of wheat, rapeseed, corn and other crops is observed in countries such as Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, but EU Ministers noted that this is not a difficulty for the entire European Union.
The Ukrainian Agri Council in cooperation with the leading agrarian associations appealed to the EU leaders to preserve and indefinitely extend Ukraine's preferential trade regime with the European Union. After all, since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country has been in the most difficult situation since its independence.
Russia is deliberately destroying the Ukrainian agricultural sector, some seaports are occupied, full exports have been halted, fields are "sown" with mines, and businesses have been completely destroyed.
"For Ukraine, the western border is a lifeline that was sincerely extended to us. For us, this is a forced step because of the blockade of Ukrainian ports. Farmers are forced to export their products through the western border and EU ports. Delivery to them is carried out by road, which creates additional costs. Therefore, I, personally, addressed the Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Norbert Lins. We have also sent an appeal to the EU Agriculture and Fisheries ministers and the members of the union of two major agricultural organizations - COPA and COGECA, which represent the strongest interest group of European farmers. We understand the concerns of European farmers, but we asked the EU leaders to investigate how to support their producers that will prevent the crisis in Ukraine from deepening and contribute to strengthening food security in the world," said Andriy Dykun, the Head of the Ukrainian Agri Council.
Despite the problems for local farmers, especially in the countries bordering Ukraine, which have begun to experience difficulties in selling their products, during the discussion none of the member states put forward initiatives to reduce or create any barriers to Ukrainian agricultural exports, expressing absolute support for Ukraine and Ukrainian farmers. At the same time, EU countries began to investigate how to support European farmers in this emergency situation.
"A possible tool is to use the EU crisis reserve to support farmers. Not all member states supported such a proposal, but most of them were not against it. This is exactly the reason why we will give very serious consideration to the possibility of using the crisis reserve for farmers in trouble. We will analyze this situation, and I will submit this proposal for consideration to the Board of the European Commission", – the European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski emphasized.
At the beginning of the Russian aggression, import from Ukraine were almost completely blocked and amounted to no more than 200 thsd tonnes of agricultural goods per month. Now the EU countries are recording a significant increase in import to the EU from Ukraine if we compare 2021-2022. For example, grain import from Ukraine to the EU amounted to 287 thsd tonnes in 2021, this figure increased to 2.849 mln tonnes in 2022. Particularly, before the war, 7.309 mln tonnes of corn were delivered from Ukraine to the EU, this volume increased to 12.012 mln tonnes in 2022. The same for rapeseed and sunflower seed. Before the war, the EU imported 25 thsd tonnes of sunflower seed, and in 2022, the indicator increased to 1.855 mln tonnes.
However, given that the Grain deal expires in March and Ukrainian farmers do not know whether and for how long it will be extended, and that the current conditions are constantly being violated by additional ship inspections artificially created by the Russian side, Ukraine is completely dependent on exporting its goods through the western border, and thus maintaining a preferential trade regime with the EU is extremely important to further support Ukraine's economy and agricultural sector.
We are grateful for the cooperation and support of the members of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, and European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski, as well as the Minister of Rural Affairs of Sweden Peter Kullgren, who represents the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU.Wednesday, 1 February 2023