BRUSSELS (AP) — Ukraine on Saturday welcomed the European Union's hard-fought deal to keep farm exports flowing into and through the bloc to world markets, saying that the Middle East and Africa would specifically stand to benefit from it.
Late Friday, the 27-nation EU ended a damaging internal standoff over a destabilizing glut of Ukraine farm imports by granting five eastern member countries the right to temporarily ban the most problematic produce while allowing all farm products to transit onward.
Resolving the issue allows the EU to maintain a unified stance in the face of Russia's invasion of its neighbor. "We welcome that we resolved this issue," Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko said at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Stockholm.
Under the deal, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania can keep four farm products that make up the overwhelming mass of exports from Ukraine out of their local markets but must guarantee unfettered access to the rest of the bloc.
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine hampered Black Sea shipments of Ukrainian agricultural products, using the 27-nation bloc as a transportation route has been essential to getting the nation's prized cereal production on to the world.
"We found a wise decision that would help Ukraine to export necessary commodities, food commodities towards African countries, which is so necessary for them," Marchenko said, adding Middle East nations would equally profit.
Under the deal, the bloc would basically accept the national bans on four of the five main products — wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds — that account for most imports. The EU would also assess whether other products, including sunflower oil, should also be included.
As an added sweetener, the EU provided 100 million euros ($113 million) more in special aid on top of on an initial support package of 56.3 million euros to help farmers in the affected countries.
On Friday, EU nations also tentatively agreed to lift tariffs on Ukraine's grains for another year. The EU lifted duties on Ukrainian grain to facilitate its transport to Africa and the Middle East by other routes after a Russian blockade kept cargo from leaving Ukraine's ports.
Overall, there was acceptance that the lifting of import tariffs had seriously skewed the local markets in nations closest to Ukraine. In Poland, wheat imports went from 2,375 tons in 2021 to 500,008 tons last year. Maize went from 5,863 tons to more than 1.8 million over the same period.
Similar huge increases were also evident in Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.