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Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

EU member states and lawmakers have reached an agreement on Wednesday to impose limits on duty-free imports of certain Ukrainian grains, responding to concerns raised by farmers in the bloc amidst Russia’s invasion. The deal, valid for one year, extends the tariff exemption granted in 2022 while introducing safeguards on additional products like oats, eggs, poultry, and sugar to prevent an overflow of cheap imports into the market. Notably, wheat and barley remain excluded from the safeguard list.

The regulation, as outlined by the European Parliament, includes provisions for an “emergency brake” mechanism targeting poultry, eggs, sugar, oats, maize, groats, and honey. Initially, the 27-nation bloc had waived tariffs on Ukrainian imports to support Ukraine’s economy post-invasion by Russia in February 2022. However, after two years, EU farmers have raised concerns about being undercut by cheaper Ukrainian imports that do not adhere to the EU’s stringent regulations, particularly regarding animal welfare, sparking protests across the bloc.

European Parliament rapporteur Sandra Kalniete emphasized the deal’s reinforcement of the EU’s commitment to stand by Ukraine amidst the ongoing conflict with Russia. Additionally, she highlighted the bolstering of safeguard measures to alleviate pressure on EU farmers in case of a sudden surge in Ukrainian imports, aiming to address farmers’ discontent within the bloc.

The discontent among farmers, notably in Poland, has manifested in protests, including blockades at checkpoints with Ukraine and expansion to the western border with Germany. The European Commission had initially proposed extending tariff-free entry for another year but with safeguards to prevent adverse impacts on domestic markets. These safeguards included an “emergency brake” to halt imports exceeding average volumes from 2022 and 2023.

Following negotiations triggered by the EU Parliament’s call to include grain and honey in the capped products list, the reference period for monitoring imports remained at 2022-2023, rejecting extension proposals. The concessions come ahead of European Parliament elections, with far-right parties expected to gain support by capitalizing on farmers’ grievances.

In response to concerns, EU Chief Ursula von der Leyen hinted at potential restrictions on Russian agricultural imports. Moreover, MEPs secured commitments from the European Commission to swiftly act in case of a surge in Ukrainian wheat imports. Furthermore, efforts are underway to facilitate the return of Ukrainian agricultural products to their original markets in Africa and the Middle East, which were impacted by the conflict. The agreement is slated for formal adoption by EU member states in a plenary meeting scheduled for late April, with enforcement expected on June 6.

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