Bulgaria has said it will accept grain from Ukraine after the end of an EU-wide ban, sparking protests by farmers, while the Romanian government is planning a unilateral 30-day ban on grain imports from the neighbouring country.
Brussels decided on September 15 to end the temporary ban on the sale of Ukrainian grain to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Romania’s Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu announced on September 18 that the government is ready to pass a joint order of the Ministers of Agriculture and Economy for the 30-day extension of the embargo on grain imports from Ukraine.
However, the Romanian prime minister added that the order will not be given until there is communication with his Ukrainian counterpart.
Ciolacu said that at the moment there is no request from Ukraine for export and he "guaranteed" that "not a single gram of grain will be imported" into Romania.
The original ban was intended to protect farmers and allow markets to adjust to the influx of products from Ukraine following Russia's blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports. In the past, Kyiv has threatened to sue the EU if it does not drop the ban.
Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have announced that they will impose their own bans on Ukrainian grain following the Commission's decision to end restrictions at the EU level.
Bulgaria to accept grain imports
Bulgaria has announced that it is accepting Ukrainian grain because the domestic market needs it, but this has resulted in protests by farmers.
Bulgarian farmers blocked dozens of key roads across the country on September 18, including at the border with Romania, protesting against the government’s decision not to seek an extension of the ban on imports of Ukrainian grain. The decision was made both to support Kyiv and to lower the prices on the local market.
According to grain processing companies, the grain imported from Ukraine was much cheaper and better quality than that offered by local producers. Moreover, they accused local farmers of pushing prices up to speculate.
On the other hand, grain producers claim that this would force them to go bankrupt. Despite numerous invitations to talks from the government, grain producers have rejected any communication and took to the streets.
Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov accused grain producers of behaving like terrorists.
“I do not negotiate with terrorists,” Denkov said.
At a press briefing on September 17, he also said the government wants to hold talks with grain producers in order to determine how much it can import from Ukraine without harming their interests but the invitations to talks have been rejected.
“Instead of responding to invitations, they have issued ultimatums and threats that actually prevent the problems from being resolved. Nevertheless, we remain with a hand extended to the sector and are ready for a conversation, as soon as the branch organisations are ready for a constructive dialogue,” he said.
The prime minister also claimed that the protests were staged by farmers that had “bought yachts” with subsidies.
At the end of July, Finance Minister Assen Vassilev and a deputy minister of agriculture met representatives of 35 organisations in the livestock sector, Denkov said. At that time, all of them said they agreed with imports from Ukraine.