Central European states ask EU to ease problems caused by influx of Ukrainian grain
BUDAPEST/WARSAW, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Six Central European states have asked the European Union to take steps to mitigate problems caused by increased Ukrainian grain imports into the region, saying the influx has cut prices and hurt local farmers, government officials said.
Ukraine is a major global grain producer and exporter, but production and exports have fallen since Russia invaded the country last February and started blockading its seaports.
In order to help Ukrainian grain and other agricultural goods reach markets, the EU started so-called solidarity lanes last year to facilitate transports.
Zsolt Feldman, state secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture said late on Monday that Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria had made a joint request at the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels for immediate measures.
"If the EU acts in unity to help overland grain exports, then the burden should also be shared equally among member states," the Hungarian statement said. Feldman said the EU did not promise any steps to alleviate the market disruptions.
Polish Agriculture Minister Henryk Kowalczyk told Polish state news agency PAP on Monday, "we are ready to continue helping Ukraine... But we also want to include the entire EU in this aid... so that Polish farmers or farmers from other neighbouring countries do not only suffer the effects, but that these effects can be mitigated".
He said Central European states had asked the EU to transport the Ukrainian grain beyond Ukraine's immediate neighbours and to provide assistance.
The European Commission did not reply to emailed Reuters questions on Tuesday.
An upcoming EU-Ukraine summit on Friday is due to discuss the opening up of EU markets to more Ukrainian products, including grains, to help Ukraine raise revenue as it fights against Russian forces.
Bulgaria's agriculture ministry said in a statement on their website that the creation of temporary warehouses for Ukrainian grain, as well as new transport corridors, including railways, could reduce pressure from increasing imports from Ukraine.
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