Bulgaria temporarily bans imports of Ukrainian farm produce

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Bulgaria is the latest European country to temporarily ban the import of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural produce following protests from local farmers, excluding goods in transit destined for export

ByThe Associated Press

April 19, 2023, 9:14 AM

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria on Wednesday became the latest European country to temporarily ban the import of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural produce following protests from local farmers, excluding goods in transit destined for export.

The measure will be in place until the end of June. Officials said it will protect Bulgarian farmers’ competitiveness amid a market glut of Ukrainian grain that has lowered prices, and help them sell their own grain that has piled up, unsold, in warehouses.

Agriculture Minister Yavor Gechev told reporters that Sofia is following the example of fellow European Union members Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, adding that Bulgaria’s market was “really saturated enough with crops.”

“Our own production is worth billions, and we believe it will be difficult to sell, so we will suffer serious losses unless we take measures” Gechev said.

Similar moves by other countries in the region drew the anger of the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, which manages trade for the 27 bloc members. The commission warned that EU trade policy is shaped collectively and not by each member country.

After Russia blocked traditional export sea passages amid the war in Ukraine, the EU lifted duties on Ukrainian grain to facilitate its transport to Africa and the Middle East and offered to pay some compensation to farmers on transit countries, which they said was insufficient. Ukraine is a major exporter of farm produce.

Bulgaria’s ban will not affect the solidarity corridors set up by the EU for the transit of Ukrainian grain. Gechev said that while these have been closed in “a number of European countries” the goods will be re-directed through Romania and Bulgaria.

He also voiced concern over reports from neighboring countries that some Ukrainian goods had allegedly tested positive for substances not authorized in the EU.

Gechev told reporters that Bulgaria was “still in solidarity with Ukraine,” saying its foodstuffs would be allowed to transit the country, and voiced hope that a joint EU decision about the solidarity corridors will be adopted.

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