Countries Extend Ban on Ukraine's Grain

But they will allow shipments to travel through their lands to other destinations.

A U.N. official inspects the cargo ship TQ Samsun, Istanbul, July 17, 2023.
A U.N. official inspects the cargo ship TQ Samsun, Istanbul, July 17, 2023.
United Nations via AP

WARSAW, Poland (AP) β€” Five European Union countries will extend their ban on Ukrainian grain to protect their farmers' interests, their agriculture ministers said Wednesday, but food can still move through their land to parts of the world in need after Russia pulled out of a deal allowing Black Sea shipments.

The ministers of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania signed a joint declaration in Warsaw ahead of EU discussions on the matter planned next week in Brussels. The declaration said they support continuing to allow Ukraine's grain to move through their countries by road, rail and river to destinations where it is needed but will keep the import ban to their countries through 2023.

"This coalition is not against anyone, not against Ukraine or the EU, it is in the interest of our farmers," Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus said after meeting with his counterparts and deciding to push the ban beyond a Sept. 15 deadline.

Except for Bulgaria, all the countries border Ukraine, which faced a major blow Monday when Russia pulled out of a breakthrough accord brokered by the U.N. and Turkey to allow food shipments through the Black Sea to countries where millions are going hungry. Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat, barley, vegetable oil and corn.

The five agricultural ministers and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who met with them, said Ukrainian grain previously got stuck in their countries, leading to a glut that drove down prices for their farmers, and they don't want to see that happen again. Now, the grain moves through the countries to other markets in sealed and guarded transports.

They urged the EU to work out mechanisms that will get Ukrainian grain and other food to their destinations without hurting the agricultural industry in transit countries.

"Today the EU should build proper law and infrastructure tools to regulate transport of Ukraine grain in the long term," Telus said.

"We want to help Ukraine in the transit," he said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said Tuesday that she was "deeply concerned about Russia's move to terminate the Black Sea Grain Initiative," stressing that the "risk is that it brings food insecurity to so many vulnerable countries across the globe."

"The European Union will, with all means, continue to work to ensure that food security for vulnerable people is given," von der Leyen said.

More than 45 million metric tons of grain, oilseeds and other products have been exported through Europe, she said.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, which was brokered in a bid to end a global food crisis caused by Russia's war in Ukraine, has allowed 32.9 million metric tons to get to the world, according to the U.N.

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