An abundance of cheap Ukrainian grain has sparked farmers’ protests in eastern Europe

(CNN) Farmers in central and eastern Europe protested this week against the impact of cheap prices Ukrainian grain imports, which have undermined domestic prices and hurt sales of domestic producers.

Protesters have blocked traffic and border checkpoints with tractors along the border between Romania and Bulgaria, in an effort to prevent Ukrainian trucks from entering their country, according to local news outlets.

Local producers say they cannot compete with the price of Ukrainian grain and have demanded compensation from the European Commission.

Ukraine, often called the “breadbasket of Europe” because of the vast amounts of grain it produces, had its own ports on the Black Sea. besieged by Russia After the invasion in February 2022.

Fearing that the situation “threatens global food security,” the European Commission prove What he called “corridors of solidarity” in May to facilitate exports.

The Commission also temporarily removed all duties and quotas on Ukrainian exports, allowing large quantities of cheap Ukrainian grain to flow into Europe.

“The Romanian farmer, geographically European, practically alone,” read a banner during the protest in Bucharest.

This caused “significant market distortions” in neighboring countries, according to the European Farmers’ Union Cuba Kojica.

“The EU needs to address the severe consequences caused by the opening of borders and unmanaged imports of some agricultural commodities to neighboring EU member states,” Pekka Bissonen, Secretary General of Cuba-Kojica, told CNN.

He added, “We call for the stability of the volume of imports, commensurate with our ability in the European Union to absorb the flow of goods.”

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Anger mounted after the European Commission announced a draft resolution to extend duty- and quota-free Ukrainian grain imports until June 2024, prompting Polish Agriculture Minister Henryk Kowalczek to do so. Resigned Wednesday.

In Kowalczyk’s resignation statement, he said that the Polish government – along with the governments of Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria – had submitted an application to the European Commission “to activate the protection clause in the area of ​​duty-free and quota-free grain imports from Ukraine”.

“Bulgaria stands in solidarity with Ukraine, but there is a local glut in the agricultural market, because instead of export corridors, our country has become warehouses,” Bulgarian Minister of Agriculture Yavor Gechev said. He said.

“Bulgarian farmers’ warehouses are full of stagnant products. There is no market for Bulgarian grain,” said the National Association of Bulgarian Grain Producers.

According to their data, 40% of last year’s grain and sunflower harvest remains unsold.

Romanian farmers are also feeling the pressure. At protests in Bucharest on Friday, Liliana Peron, executive director of the Association of Romanian Agricultural Producers Associations, said farmers had “reached a point where they feel they can no longer afford” “unfair competition” from Ukraine.

“We are less than three months away from the new harvest season and the danger is real, which is that the goods that we will prepare this season will not be able to be sold at prices higher than production costs,” Perron said. RadioFree Europe.

“We will witness a series of bankruptcies of Romanian farmers,” she added.

In response to the growing unrest, the European Commission proposed last month support measures in the amount of €56.3 million (about $61.3 million) to Bulgarian, Polish and Romanian farmers “to compensate farmers affected by economic losses caused by increased imports”.

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“The trade disruptions caused by Russian aggression must not be done at the expense of farmers from neighboring countries,” the commission said in a statement.

CNN’s Alex Hardy and Antonia Mortensen contributed to this report.

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