In the dispute over cheap grain from Ukraine, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced protective measures. A Commission spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the Germans had sent a letter to the affected countries and suggested appropriate steps with a view to products such as wheat, corn and sunflowers. What these measures look like in detail was not initially stated.

A senior EU official specified the project in the afternoon: “The measure is not about reintroducing tariffs,” she said. The point is to only allow imports that should not remain in the EU neighboring countries of Ukraine and Bulgaria. No tariffs are currently levied on Ukrainian agricultural products because of the Russian war of aggression. Farmers in several eastern EU countries are feeling disproportionate pressure from cheap grain from Ukraine.

Poland and Hungary imposed an import ban on grain and other agricultural products from Ukraine at the weekend. The government in Warsaw was also reacting to protests by farmers.

EU-wide solution needed

Poland and Ukraine then announced a solution on Tuesday evening. In the future it will be ensured that no Ukrainian grain will remain in Poland. The Commission welcomed the agreement in principle. However, a spokeswoman stressed: “We insist that this is a first step.” An EU solution is necessary. The Commission has always emphasized that trade policy is an EU competence and that unilateral measures are not acceptable.

Criticism of Germany was also raised from Hungary. The unchecked flow of Ukrainian agricultural products is flooding the EU market, a government spokesman said in a blog post. This is also due to the fact that “Germany and the Netherlands in particular began to buy up the surplus for half the price they would pay under normal circumstances.”

However, the pressure on Ukraine does not end there. On Wednesday, Bulgaria imposed an import ban from April 24 until the end of June. However, the transit of Ukrainian agricultural products should still be possible. Slovakia has also restricted imports from Ukraine. But here, too, transit should continue to be permitted.

Ukraine dependent on revenue

Agricultural exports mean important income for Ukraine. According to information from the EU Commission, 63 million tons of goods were exported from Ukraine by the end of March via overland trade routes specially set up after the beginning of the war. Half of them were agricultural products that were sold for around 26 billion euros.

Until the beginning of the war, Ukrainian grain was mainly sold by sea. In the course of the Russian war of aggression, however, Black Sea ports were blocked for a long time. Transport over land is significantly more expensive. According to information from EU circles, up to 40 percent of the costs for Ukrainian grain are due to transport, while 10 percent is normal. This makes it more difficult to sell the grain on the world market. According to EU information, there are no quotas for how much Ukrainian grain should remain in the EU and how much should be exported to third countries.