19 Sep 2023 14:18

No damage done to Ukraine by ban on Ukrainian grain exports to 5 EU member states - European commissioner

BRUSSELS. Sept 19 (Interfax) - The overall agricultural exports of Ukraine grew while the ban on Ukrainian grain exports to five neighboring EU member states was in effect, so the Ukrainian reaction towards these countries is surprising, European Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said.

"It was reported between May 2022 and April 2023, when no ban was enacted, that 34.8 million tonnes, i.e. 2.9 million tonnes per month, were exported by land corridors. [...] The ban was enforced in May 2023. Exports stood at 9.6 million tonnes in three months, which means Ukraine exported 3.2 million tonnes per month, despite the ban for five countries," Wojciechowski said at a press conference in Brussels after a meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council.

Agricultural exports reach their peak after harvesting, while the situation is less tense in May, June and July, the commissioner said. Ukraine exported 7.3 million tonnes by land over the same three months in 2022, when there was no embargo, versus 9.6 million tonnes in 2023, he said.

"I remind you of these numbers because the Ukrainian reaction has been quite surprising," Wojciechowski said, referring to Kiev's strong protest against the extended export embargo for five countries - Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

He believes that the ban did no harm to Ukraine, but allowed dealing with the trade anomalies, while transit through neighboring countries gave Ukrainian exports direct access to the bigger market.

Wojciechowski called for dialogue in the light of Ukraine's complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about unilateral bans imposed by Hungary, Poland and Slovakia on its agricultural products.

"I hope that dialogue and mutual consent will lead to a solution. [...] I remain confident and optimistic even though I am aware that the complaint filed by Ukraine with the WTO hampers the development of the dialogue," he said.

The said countries and the European Commission are fully aware of the very difficult situation Ukraine has found itself in, Wojciechowski said. "We should do everything to help Ukraine, but we should do it while protecting European farmers instead of pushing them to the edge of the abyss," he said.