Romanian agri co-ops respond to Ukraine grain imports row

Romania’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will be issuing the import licenses for four products – wheat, corn, sunflower and rapeseed

Disputes between Ukraine and its neighbouring states continue as Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary unilaterally imposed a ban on Ukrainian agricultural goods on 15 September.

The ban fallowed the European Commission’s decision to end its temporary ban on imports into Ukraine’s five EU neighbours (the three countries along with Romania and Bulgaria).

In response, Ukraine filed a World Trade Organization lawsuit against Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary over their agri-import ban.

“It is fundamentally important for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban the import of Ukrainian goods,” Ukrainian deputy prime minister and economy minister, Yuliya Svyridenko, said in a statement. “All member states of the bloc should coordinate and agree on trade policy, as it belongs to the exclusive competence of the EU.”

Svyridenko said Ukraine “hope[s] that these states will lift their restrictions and we will not have to clarify the relationship in the courts for a long time”. 

Meanwhile, Romania’s National Union of Vegetable Co-operatives (UNCSV) told its members Ukraine had submitted to the EU an action plan regarding its exports so that there are no disruptions in the agricultural markets of the member states neighbouring it. Under this plan, a system of export licenses to Ukraine/import licenses to Romania would be introduced.

The licensing process will be developed over the next 30 days during which nothing will be imported from Ukraine. Romania’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will be issuing the import licenses for four products – wheat, corn, sunflower and rapeseed.

“Only economic operators in animal husbandry will receive import licenses – for their own consumption on farms, but also from the processing industry – depending on the stocks and the need for six months of processing,” UNCSV said in a statement. “It was requested from the professional organisations that those who will purchase agricultural products from Ukraine should not benefit from compensation for the negative effects created by the introduction to the market, but that these should reach only those economic operators who use goods of Romanian origin and 100% traceability.“

The apex said Romanian farmers had suffered over the course of the year due to high input costs and low selling price. According to UNCSV, in the autumn of 2022 and spring of 2023 there were increases in production costs of up to 300%.

The Romanian co-ops, along with farmers in the other four states, claim that while the import of Ukrainian produce is prohibited and only transit is allowed, large quantities of grain from Ukraine end up in central Europe, distorting local markets.

“There are signals and information related to the fact that at the moment grain from Ukraine is sold directly in Romania or through the Republic of Moldova or intra-community trade through Poland at a price of 500-550 RON/ton (90 euros/ to purchase plus shipping). This strongly destabilises the sales market and negatively influences the selling prices of cereals belonging to farmers in Romania,” said UNCSV.

The EU, which is responsible for the trade policy of the member countries and negotiates agreements for them, allocated funding to counteract this impact but Romanian farmers claim the pot is insufficient.

“The amounts allocated by the EU for 2023, through the crisis mechanism (approx. €500,), are exhausted this year, the situation in the Romanian agricultural sector is precarious and the impact caused to our farmers and the Romanian state cannot be compensated in any way (approx. €4.5bn of which a compensation was granted that can reach a maximum of €80m (EU+RO Contribution)), of which the majority are in difficult situations of paying debts and continuing agricultural activity,” said UNCSV.

Earlier this year Copa and Cogeca, who represent farmers and agricultural co-operatives in the EU, called on the European Commission to strengthen support for farmers affected by Ukrainian exports.

As one of the world’s biggest suppliers of crops such as sunflower oil, wheat, barley and maize, Ukraine plays a key role in influencing world food prices. The current row could lead to shortages in the Middle East and Africa, which rely on Ukraine for grain supplies.