Poland threatens to block Ukraine grain imports as time runs down on deal with European Union

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki threatened to impose a unilateral ban on imports of Ukrainian grain if the European Union fails to extend a temporary block that is due to expire Friday. File Photo by Cheriss May/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 12 (UPI) — Poland will not permit grain imports from Ukraine to re-commence even if Brussels decides it must fall back in line with the rest of the European Union trading bloc, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Tuesday.

The country is one of five in eastern Europe that negotiated a temporary ban on imports of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds to shield domestic producers from a supply glut resulting from Brussels granting Ukraine tariff-free access to its single market in summer 2022. The ban is set to expire Friday — unless officials extend it.

“Poland will not allow Ukrainian grain to flood us. Regardless of what Brussels officials decide, we will not open our borders,” Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.

The impasse pits Poland against the bloc’s common trading rules and consequently with the other 22 countries in the EU which are complying by permitting Ukrainian grain imports and oppose the ban.

But with farmers demonstrating about the threat to their livelihoods from the imports Moriecki’s ruling Law and Justice party has turned the row into an election issue ahead of Poles heading to the polls on Oct. 15, claiming the party is on their side.

The country’s EU agriculture commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski has warned lifting the ban could spark a crisis in the five front-line member states — Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia — but Polish analysts dismiss the claim.

They argue low global prices, together with plentiful domestic production, mean the country’s food companies have no interest in bringing in grain from Ukraine.

Kyiv, for its part, is also ramping up the pressure by threatening to lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization, should Poland carry through on its threat to impose a ban unilaterally.

Poland’s Council of Ministers had authorized the Agriculture Ministry in April to issue legislation to protect the country’s agricultural market “against destabilization,” including a temporary prohibition of imports of agricultural and food products from Ukraine.

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