Hungary and its neighbors are mulling to introduce national bans on the import of Ukrainian grain, a move that could have a great impact on European prices. The Central and Easter European countries are in talks as Members of the European Parliament are split over the temporary bans that the European Union has imposed on Ukrainian grain.
Hungary has entered into discussions with its neighboring countries, including Romania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria, to potentially implement a national ban on Ukrainian grain imports after September 15, should the European Union (EU) fail to extend the existing ban, as revealed by the Hungarian farm minister this week.
The move comes as a response to the impending expiration of the EU's current ban on Ukrainian grain imports, raising concerns among these Central European nations about market stability. While Hungary and Slovakia are firmly in favor of the ban's extension, Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Nikolay Denkov, expressed a contrasting viewpoint, asserting that lifting the ban could lead to reduced prices for essential food items.
"Let us be clear - the resumption of imports from Ukraine will reduce the prices of basic foods, reduce inflation, which will help low-income people, and increase budget revenues from imports and exports," Reuters quoted Denkov as saying. A parliamentary committee in Bulgaria has already adopted a draft decision to lift the ban on certain Ukrainian imports post-September 15, with the final decision pending approval during the parliament's plenary session.
Slovakia's government has affirmed its commitment to maintaining the import ban. Farm Minister Jozef Bires emphasized that the government was prepared, if the (European) Commission did not do so (extend the ban), to adopt a ban on imports at an extraordinary session, in the same mode as now. He cited concerns about increased grain transport through Slovakia, which could result in a surplus of grain within the country.
Romania's farm ministry is awaiting the Commission's decision before finalizing its stance. However, it has vowed to protect its farmers if the ban is not extended, promising to implement effective solutions.
Ukraine, which has come to rely heavily on alternative EU export routes known as Solidarity Lanes since Russia's abandonment of a crucial grain export deal in July, has significantly impacted the grain markets in neighboring states. Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia have experienced heightened competition and logistical challenges.
Russia, which initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine 18 months ago, has stipulated that it would only consider returning to a U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain deal if specific conditions regarding the export of its grain and fertilizers are met.
István Nagy, Hungary's agriculture minister, elaborated on the nation's plans for a new national ban, indicating that it would apply to a broader spectrum of Ukrainian products than current measures. Nagy explained, "We have agreed with my Romanian, Slovak, and Bulgarian colleagues that if there is no decision on the extension of the existing moratorium by Brussels, then we will take national measures individually."
The European Commission had previously introduced "temporary preventive measures" in May, which prohibited Ukrainian grain sales to Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia while permitting transit to non-EU markets, predominantly in Africa. Under the bans, four products coming from Ukraine: wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower, can transit through the five Eastern European countries but cannot stay inside their markets for domestic consumption or storage.
These measures are set to expire on Sept. 15, adding urgency to the ongoing discussions among the concerned nations.
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