Polish Agriculture Minister Henryk Kowalczyk has resigned amid continued protests by farmers against Poland's agricultural policy and grain transit from Ukraine. The minister said his resignation was a direct result of the European Union's decision to extend grain agreements with Ukraine.
Kowalczyk's resignation was announced in Warsaw when Ukrainian President Zelensky visited the country. The transit is a controversial subject in Poland, as it would undermine the Polish grain trade. EU figures contradict that and say that most grain is indeed transported through.
Other neighboring countries are also complaining about disruption to their markets because the EU has abolished duties on almost all Ukrainian agricultural products. Last week, the prime ministers of five EU countries wrote a protest letter to President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission.
In recent months, farmers in Poland have staged massive protests, including blocking roads. The protests have been going on for more than a year, and were initially mainly aimed at the rural policy of the conservative PiS party. It wants to clean up and modernize Polish agriculture in order to meet the EU criteria for CAP agricultural subsidies.
In addition, the African Swine Fever has almost completely paralyzed the Polish meat processing industry. A Polish minister of agriculture has already resigned over this.
The problem of grain imports and ongoing farmers' protests come as Poland prepares for parliamentary elections later this year. Many Polish farmers are dissatisfied with the reorganization and modernization of Polish agriculture, which has been carried out in recent years in order to meet the EU criteria for agricultural subsidies.
Partly as a result of this, a sizeable radical farmers' action group has now been established in Poland. This group believes that this modernization is at the expense of traditional Polish farming methods and the local character of the sector.
The ruling PiS party has repeatedly pledged to protect Polish farmers from unfair competition and is trying to mitigate the impact of EU rules as much as possible. That is why LNV Minister Kowalczyk had promised the farmers that he would put pressure on Brussels to make an exception for Poland. Brussels did not.