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Wojciechowski: Ukrainian exports lead to market disruption in neighboring countries

The European Union should review its free trade agreement with Ukraine and, if necessary, reintroduce import duties on some agricultural products, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said in a debate with the Polish Senate on Wednesday. According to him, the temporary exemption leads to market distortions for a number of products in several EU neighboring countries.

Wojciechowski mentioned maize, rapeseed and poultry as examples. He said that not only Poland but also Romania and Bulgaria have seen a "problematic" increase in sunflower oil imports from Ukraine.

A Commission report found that the EU has seen a “significant increase in imports of … poultry, eggs, milk powder, butter, sugars, starches, bran and some grains”. 

The remarks of the Polish commissioner are in direct contradiction with the official EU position to cooperate fully with unrestricted food exports from Ukraine. Since Russian troops invaded the country in February, exports have been faltering. In recent months, only limited exports have been possible via the traditional export route to the Black Sea. 

Brussels therefore opened an alternative land route to the EU via the so-called solidarity routes and suspended all import duties on Ukrainian goods for a year. That agreement expires next summer, but the European Commission is considering extending it until the end of 2024. 

Due to the EU aid for export via EU corridors, many products in large quantities first end up in Poland. Polish grain traders have been complaining about unfair competition for several months. French poultry farmers have also complained to the EU about the huge quantities of Ukrainian poultry now appearing on the French market.

“I know the farmers' concerns and I see the problem,” Wojciechowski said. “Imports of some agricultural products have indeed increased several times after opening trade with Ukraine. There are simply too many goods coming in.”

Wojciechowski said a decision on whether to introduce tariffs on food products “will depend on many commissioners … but my view is that there is a problem. Where these exports have clearly increased, I will speak out in favor of introducing import restrictions.”

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