The export of Ukrainian grain and other food products is causing tension in certain eastern EU nations as farmers feel the pinch of competition
The export of Ukrainian grain and other food products is causing tension in certain eastern EU nations as farmers feel the pinch of competition AFP

Brussels on Wednesday offered an extra 100 million euros of support for EU farmers to ease a standoff over Ukrainian grain after Bulgaria became the latest country to approve a temporary ban on food products from the war-hit nation.

In recent days, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia temporarily banned the import of grain and other food items from Ukraine after a slump in prices triggered protests from local farmers.

As Brussels scrambles to find a solution to break the deadlock, the European Commission on Wednesday proposed an extra 100 million euros ($110 million) of support for farmers impacted.

That money would come on top of a 56-million-euro package that was provided for farmers in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria last month.

The EU's executive also proposed putting in place emergency measures to ensure grain could enter Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria only for export.

But EU officials failed to get the five countries to accept the compromise at talks and said more discussions would be held in the coming days.

Bulgarian farming minister Yavor Gechev earlier on Wednesday said that the government had "passed a decision that temporarily bans... a range of products originating from Ukraine".

Sofia said it was "forced to adopt... today's extreme measure" after unilateral bans by other countries were announced, "seriously" increasing the risk for Bulgaria due to the potential diversion of goods.

The ban will enter into force from April 24 and last until the end of June but will not apply to the transit of goods through Bulgarian territory.

Bulgaria hopes for a common EU decision in the coming weeks.

Its neighbour Romania also announced on Wednesday that it would take additional measures regarding Ukrainian grain imports, including sealing and monitoring the vehicles that transit through the country.

Bucharest has "asked the Ukrainian side to rapidly find solutions for restricting the export of grain and oilseeds to Romania, in order to protect farmers who are facing difficulties," a government statement said.

The Romanian and Ukrainian agricultural ministers are due to meet in Bucharest on Friday to further discuss the matter.

In May 2022, the European Union allowed Kyiv to export its grain stocks through the bloc after the closure of the Black Sea shipping lanes following Russia's invasion sparked a global food crisis.

Member states agreed to import certain products from Ukraine without quantitative restrictions, and without customs inspections.

Hungary's government on Wednesday widened its temporary ban on the imports of Ukrainian agricultural products to include honey, wine, bread, sugar and a range of meat and vegetable products.

The full list of items to be banned was revealed in a government decree, after Budapest announced on Saturday a measure to halt the import of grain, oilseeds and several other products.

Budapest complained that a significant proportion of imported Ukrainian products do not leave the EU, and instead have been sold at dumping prices in the member states.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs on Wednesday denounced "the sudden influx of cheap products" that has created an "untenable situation" for European farmers.

"In the absence of the obligation to comply with the strict production rules required by EU law, Ukrainian products have a competitive advantage... which causes serious disturbances in the internal market of the member states," the decree stated.

Hungary's decree, published overnight, said that its ban would also apply to flour, cooking oil and wine imports.

The temporary ban will last from Wednesday until June 30. Yet, it will not apply to the transit of these products through Hungary, the decree specified.

Hungarian authorities will seal shipments of the affected products at the border and monitor them with the help of electronic devices and patrols, it added.

Carriers who break the rules may be fined up to the full value of the shipment.

Poland and Ukraine on Tuesday struck a deal to allow Ukrainian grain to transit through Poland after Warsaw banned imports.