After protests in Poland over Ukrainian grain supplies, Kyiv and Warsaw reach a deal.
WARSAW — Poland and Ukraine have found what they say is a solution to an influx of Ukrainian grain that has infuriated Polish farmers, an issue that cast a shadow over the two neighbors’ close military and political cooperation against Russia.
Anger among Polish farmers over what they see as a threat to their livelihoods from Ukraine had been growing for weeks and last week prompted Poland’s beleaguered agriculture minister to resign. He quit shortly after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine arrived in Warsaw, the Polish capital, for a visit that he said showed that relations between the two neighbors, often strained in the past, had never been better.
Poland, Romania and Hungary, all of which border Ukraine and are members of the European Union, have struggled with a glut of grain and other Ukrainian agricultural products since last year, when the bloc lifted tariffs on goods from Ukraine and initiated a program to facilitate the flow of Ukrainian grain by truck, train and boat into the union for delivery to countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Instead of being moved outside the European bloc, much of the grain and agricultural products stayed in Europe after demand eased elsewhere following a resumption of some grain shipments from Ukraine through the Black Sea, which had stopped for a time after Russia blocked and bombed Ukrainian ports at the start of its full-scale invasion in February last year.
After a meeting on Friday at the Polish-Ukrainian border between Poland’s replacement agriculture minister, Robert Telus, and his Ukrainian counterpart, Poland’s state news agency, PAP, reported that the two countries had agreed to strictly limit and, for a time, halt Ukrainian grain deliveries to Poland.
The agriculture minister of Ukraine, Mykola Solski, had agreed, according to PAP, that his country would “refrain from sending wheat, corn, sunflower seeds and rape to Poland as a destination country.”
The agreement, however, will not disrupt the transit of Ukrainian produce through Poland for delivery to other countries. That indicates that grain from Ukraine could still seep into the Polish domestic market, where prices have fallen sharply as a result of Ukrainian supplies.
Immediately after his appointment on Thursday, Poland’s new agriculture minister, Mr. Telus, said he had already spoken with protesting farmers in the northwest of the country, who a day earlier had blocked traffic in the city of Szczecin during Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Warsaw. He said he would meet with farmers again this week to explain the government’s efforts to protect them from Ukrainian imports.
Facing a general election later this year and worried that discontent among farmers could erode support in its predominantly conservative, rural base, Poland’s governing Law and Justice party has made solving the grain issue with Ukraine a priority, the party’s spokesman Rafal Bochenek told PAP.
“We will not leave farmers alone,” the spokesman said, promising that “in coming days and weeks, further important decisions will be made.”