Poland threatens to keep Ukrainian grain ban after embargo date expires

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he has requested that the European Commission extend the ban.

A combine grain harvester
A combine harvester reaps grain on a field near Witowo, Poland, August 2023 [File: Kacper Pempel/Reuters]

Poland’s government has called on the European Union to extend the embargo on imports of Ukrainian grain beyond an end-of-week deadline to protect Polish farmers.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday he has requested that the European Commission, the EU’s executive, extend the ban on the entry of Ukraine corn, wheat, sunflower and rapeseed or else “we will do it ourselves because we cannot allow for a deregulation of the market.”

Speaking to farmers in Kosow Lacki, in Poland’s farming east region, Morawiecki said that the October 15 parliamentary elections will be key for the future of Poland’s agriculture. The governing conservative Law and Justice party is seeking to attract farmer voters in its campaign.

Earlier on Tuesday, Morawiecki said on X, formally known as Twitter, “Poland will not allow Ukraine grain to flood us.”

“Regardless of the decisions of the clerks in Brussels, we will not open up our borders,” he added.

The European Parliament is also set to debate the topic.

Ukraine’s neighbours, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania, agreed with the European Union to impose an embargo on grain produced from Kyiv from April until September 15 to prevent a knock-on effect on its farmers.

Only sealed goods are allowed to help Ukraine send its produce overseas as Russia blocks its usual export routes during the war.

On Tuesday, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said he was trying to extend the embargo. Wojciechowski is Poland’s former agriculture minister.

Some leaders of Polish farm groups were to attend the EU Parliament debate, including Michal Kolodziejczak, an opposition candidate running in the October elections.

Poland has been supporting neighbouring Ukraine with military and humanitarian assistance as it fights Russia’s invasion, but following farmer protests, Warsaw has been adamant in banning imports of Ukrainian agriculture products.

“We are ready to support Ukraine during the war and during its reconstruction and we want to take part in the reconstruction but at the same time, we must remember about our citizens, our agriculture and our countryside,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the ruling party leader and deputy prime minister, said at the start of the Cabinet meeting.

“Our Ukrainian friends should understand that,” he said.

But Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said on Tuesday that Kyiv was considering legal action about the ban.

“We have no intention of harming Polish farmers … but in case of violation of trade law in the interest of political populism before the elections, Ukraine will be forced to turn to WTO arbitration to obtain compensation for violation of GATT norms,” he said on social media, referring to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies