24 Nov 2023 13:56

Poland's Supreme Audit Office sees authorities' fault in oversaturation of country's agro market with Ukrainian goods - press

MOSCOW. Nov 24 (Interfax) - The Supreme Audit Office (NIK) of Poland has completed the investigation of uncontrolled imports of Ukrainian agricultural products from early January 2022 to late August 2023 and named the ineffective actions and decisions of the Polish government as the cause of destabilization of the agricultural market of the country, Ukrainian media outlets said with a reference to the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita.

"The implementation of the tasks dealing with imports and trade of grain and rapeseed from Ukraine was not reliable and effective," Rzeczpospolita said, citing an excerpt from a NIK report.

Imports of wheat grew from 3,100 tonnes in 2021 to 523,000 tonnes in 2022, corn from 6,200 tonnes to 1.85 million tonnes, rapeseed from 86,000 to 662,000 tonnes, it said. A total of 541 companies imported 4.3 million tonnes of grains and oilseeds worth 6.2 billion zloty to Poland over the period under audit.

"When alarming signals about the uncontrolled inflows of grain have started to increase, the authorities [of Poland] downplayed the significance of the problem. [Former] Minister of Agriculture Henryk Kowalczyk said that 'Ukrainian grain is not flooding the Polish market and poses no threat to Polish farmers,'" the media outlet said.

According to the Polish audit institution, the former minister, calling on farmers to refrain from selling their grain and rapeseed, misled them with the promise of price increases in the second half of 2022 and increased the chaos on the market. The minister's assessment of the situation was wrong and unsupported by data and analysis which would enable forecasting its future development.

Only in December 2022, the former agriculture minister notified the European Commission about "the grain crisis," it said. As a result, Poland applied to the European Commission for the resumption on trade duties on Ukrainian agricultural produce only in April 2023. The ban in imports of agricultural products from Ukraine was imposed in mid-2023, the report said.

"The situation which developed because of excessive imports of grain showed that no instruments to counter destabilization of the Polish agricultural market exist. The agricultural policy without planning and market analysis lacked long-term and forward-looking decisions," the NIK report said.

As reported, Polish Agriculture Minister Henryk Kowalczyk was forced to resign in April 2023 amid protests of Polish farmers against the European Union's waiver of duties on supplies of Ukrainian agricultural products to European markets.

It was also reported that on May 2, under pressure from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, the European Commission imposed a ban on imports of a number of Ukrainian crops, namely wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower, into them, and it was in effect until September 15. The five countries stated that Ukrainian agricultural products end up in them amid their duty-free imports in the EU, and it is detrimental to the local agroindustry.

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia imposed unilateral bans after restrictions were lifted. Poland extended the list of goods banned for imports to include rapeseed cake and meal, corn bran, wheat flour and derivative products. Hungary brought this list to 24 commodity items, but later removed cane and beet sugar from it.

Ukraine filed a lawsuit with the World Trade Organization, accusing Poland, Hungary and Slovakia of discriminating against its agricultural produce. Ukraine is currently negotiating the introduction of a mechanism of licensing exports of Ukrainian agro produce with mandatory verification in each of the five countries.