9 Feb 2024 21:20

Polish farmers obstruct passage of vehicles via Ukrainian-Polish border

MOSCOW. Feb 9 (Interfax) - Polish farmers have staged protests by obstructing vehicle traffic at the Medyka-Shegini, Hrebenne-Rava Russkaya, and Dorohusk-Yagodin crossings on the Polish-Ukrainian border, Ukrainian media have reported with reference to the State Border Service.

Protesting farmers have said they would let one truck, one bus, and one car an hour through the Medyka checkpoint, two trucks an hour in both directions through the Hrebenne checkpoint, without obstructing the passage of cars and buses there, and one truck an hour in both directions through the Dorohusk checkpoint, without blocking it to buses, it said.

Apart from that, starting February 9, Polish farmers intend to obstruct the unloading of Ukrainian agrifood products at the Hrubieszow-Vladimir-Volynsky railway crossing (the Izov railway station), the Ukrainian State Customs Service said on Telegram.

"According to information from the Polish side, local farmers have declared their intention today, on February 9, to start obstructing the reloading of Ukrainian agricultural goods from railway to road transport at the Hrubieszow-Vladimir-Volynsky crossing and their transfer to terminals at the Hrubieszow station," it said.

All other categories of goods would be shipped without restrictions, it said.

European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski showed solidarity with the protesting Polish farmers and listed measures that have been taken to restrict Ukrainian agrifood imports and stabilize the situation on the Polish market.

Wojciechowski said on X that grain imports from Ukraine to a number of neighboring countries have been suspended, sugar, poultry meat, and egg imports would be limited, the restriction on the use of pesticides in the EU has been lifted, and the requirement on letting 4% of land lie fallow annually has been suspended.

In addition, agricultural funds for Poland have lately been increased, the Polish National Strategic Plan was approved among the first in the EU, agricultural funds amounting to over 5 billion euros per year were the only ones transferred to Poland without any milestones or preconditions set, and direct payments to Polish farmers have exceeded the average EU level, he said.

Wojciechowski assured the protesting farmers that he would continue to speak in favor of increasing direct subsidies to agrarians within the framework of government support by 10% in 2024.

He also said he was working to make sure that the EU exempts farmers from any sanctions for non-compliance with the Common Agricultural Policy rules (fallowing, crop rotation, winter cover) due to extraordinary circumstances (the situation in Ukraine) and from having to provide photos and other evidence to confirm the implementation of eco-schemes, replacing these with a farmer's declaration.

The commissioner said he would try to make sure that the EU agricultural budget is increased considerably after 2027 and that farmers receive assistance in crises. He said he would also seek the extension of government support to agrarians amid the conflict in Ukraine after June 2024.

Polish Agriculture Minister Czeslaw Siekierski said farmers have reasonable expectations for restricting the excessive influx of goods from Ukraine and other non-European markets to the European Union, particularly Poland.

"Poland and other border countries have been hit the most by the EU's decision on liberalizing trade and opening the EU market to the flow of goods from Ukraine without customs duties and quotas," Siekierski said in an interview published on the jedynka.polskieradio.pl website.

He said he was determined to restrict the influx of imported goods and "monitor the calm on the Polish market."

Poland and Ukraine are currently in negotiations on possible restrictions of Ukrainian agrifood imports, he said.

"We want to set certain indicators and sums that we'll control. If there's too much of some product and it distorts the market, there'll be a blockade, because you should remember that trade goes both ways. We also export to the EU and other countries. Of course, we can't compete with the Ukrainian agricultural sector, whose production is bigger in its scope," Siekierski said.

Poland will submit relevant proposals to the European Commission after coordinating them with Ukraine, Siekierski said. That said, some Polish provinces "will require a full quarantine, as is the case with grain," he said, while referring to imports of sugar and poultry meat.

Siekierski described the blocking of roads as an acceptable form of protest.

Polish truckers and farmers have been staging protests on the Polish-Ukrainian border, including the blocking of border crossings to trucks, since November 2023. About a month ago, the Polish Infrastructure Ministry signed an agreement with truckers, under which they were supposed to halt the border blockade until March 1.