The European Commission is ready to release another €100 million from the crisis reserve for farmers in five Eastern European countries neighboring Ukraine. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Marowiecki calls this amount “too little and too late”.
The extra aid is intended as compensation for the market disruptions following European aid campaigns for Ukraine. Earlier, the EU already released 56 million euros for these damages.
Behind the scenes, there are currently busy official consultations between the EU and the five neighboring countries and Ukraine about technical possibilities to ensure that Ukrainian exports are actually exported and not traded on markets in neighboring countries. The protests of the five neighboring countries are not only directed against the grain trade, but also against the duty-free import of meat and other food products.
In Eastern Europe, the agricultural sector has been hit hard by European support for Ukraine. This country has the largest grain harvest in the world and a large part goes to the EU countries. However, as a result of the support campaigns, the grain price has fallen sharply and farmers in Ukraine's neighboring countries are facing competition from cheap Ukrainian grains on the local market. As a result, farmers in these countries earn less and local economies are damaged.
Critics say Poland's complaints about its stalled grain sales are exaggerated, as Poland achieved more agricultural and food exports last year than in previous years. Europe columnist Carolien de Gruyter of NRC Handelsblad shows that Poland has done a lot to rake in more European money. For example, the country has put pressure on the European Commission to expand the support scheme for farmers in Eastern Europe.
According to some reports, Poland exported more agricultural and food products in 2022 than in previous years. In addition, Poland has received significantly more European subsidies in 2022 than in previous years. In total, Poland received 12.5 billion euros in agricultural subsidies, which is an increase of 70 percent compared to 2021.
The Polish blockade of the transit of Ukrainian agricultural products is also seen as election rhetoric in Polish politics. Parliamentary elections will be held in Poland later this year.
The ruling conservative PiS party appears to be losing support from their rural Polish electorate, which emerged a year or two ago when the government failed to control ASF swine fever. In addition, the introduction of EU rules means that many Polish rural people no longer fall under traditional subsidy criteria.
On Monday, the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee will discuss the current state of affairs. The agriculture ministers of the EU countries will meet in Luxembourg a day later to discuss the matter. In Romania and Poland, the ban on Ukrainian grains has now been lifted, while they are still waiting for a final decision from the European Commission.