Ukrainian grain prices undercut EU farmers – WSJ

Europeans can’t compete with cheap grain imports from Ukraine, which never make it to food-starved regions, the paper writes

An influx of cheap Ukrainian grain and poultry is making it difficult for farmers in the European Union to break even, according to a report published by the Wall Street Journal on Friday. Meanwhile, the grain-starved countries that were supposed to benefit from a UN-brokered arrangement to ensure safe passage of cereals and sunflower oil out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports are not getting the food they desperately need.

“I am all for helping Ukraine, but I believe the EU opened Pandora’s box,” Jan Bieniasz, managing director of a farmers cooperative in the Polish village of Laka, told the outlet. He was referring to the European Commission’s decision to remove tariffs and quotas to allow Kiev to export its grains over land and from European ports amid the conflict with Russia. 

The move has seen European Union countries flooded with cheaper agricultural goods – while EU wheat and corn generally retail for $324 and $307 a ton, respectively, Ukraine’s wheat and corn sell for around $272 and $251, the WSJ writes.  

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Chairman of Bulgaria’s National Grain Producer Association Iliya Prodanov, in his comment to the daily, described a similar situation in his country, pointing out that Ukrainian farmers did not have to adhere to the same environmental regulations as their EU counterparts. On Wednesday, farmers in several Bulgarian cities protested against Ukrainian agricultural imports. 

French poultry farmers have made similar complaints, noting that chicken imports from Ukraine have more than doubled in the first half of 2022 and urging the EU not to renew the tariff-cancellation agreement. Apart from pricing out local farmers’ wares, Ukrainian cargoes are also taking up needed space at the ports, Cristian Gavrila of Romanian trade organization PRO AGRO told the WSJ.

The report claims that Kiev has blamed Poland for slowing down the flow of exports at the border, accusing officials of deliberately sitting on shipments and dragging their feet with sanitary checks, and has volunteered to send Ukrainian officials to help speed things along. Polish officials have insisted that they are moving as quickly as they can, according to the WSJ. 

The pace of grain exports from Ukraine jumped 66% last month as the UN oversaw a deal to ensure safe passage out of the Black Sea, the American daily noted. However, most of those shipments have gone to Europe and other high-income nations, rather than the poor countries dealing with the food crisis that the agreement was meant to address.

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