June 23. 2024. 8:53

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Polish farmers threaten to disrupt Zelenskyy visit as Ukrainian grain floods market

Polish grain producers might block Warsaw’s streets during the visit of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy if the government takes no immediate action to halt the inflow of Ukrainian grain into the Polish market.

Zelenskyy will visit Poland on Wednesday, Marcin Przydacz, head of the International Policy Bureau in the Polish President’s office, told RMF FM radio on Monday morning. He is expected to meet with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda and thank the country for the help the government and Polish society offered to Ukraine from the first day of the Russian invasion.

Meanwhile, grain producers accuse Agriculture Minister Henryk Kowalczyk of failing to implement the agreement it signed with farmers to solve the issue the sector has faced with Ukrainian grain flooding the Polish market.

“Warsaw should think the thing over. If the Minister wants (us) to spoil him this Wednesday in Warsaw, we are ready to do so. Same about the Ukrainian President’s visit,” Marcin Sobczuk, head of the local Zamość Farmers’ Association, told Interia news outlet.

“There are a lot of ideas, but it is too early to talk about it,” he said about how the farmers will force the minister to take action.

Last year, the EU established Solidarity Lanes to facilitate grain exports from war-torn Ukraine which had its ports blocked. Huge flows of cheap Ukrainian grain ended up in central European countries, affecting grain prices for local farmers, notably in Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria.

After a roundtable discussion last week, the Agriculture Ministry and representatives of the farmers’ movement signed a joint agreement, listing several steps aimed at halting the excessive inflow of grain from Ukraine and compensating grain producers for their losses.

“We thought that the minister took us seriously, but it turned out to be otherwise,” Sobczuk said, insisting that Kowalczyk has implemented none of the promises it delivered to the farmers. He added that the import of grain from Ukraine continued and increased.

“Since the agreement was signed, we have seen an increased inflow of Ukrainian grain. Companies are ravenously importing grain to Poland. It looks as if they were stockpiling the grain,” Michał Kołodziejczak, a leading Polish farmer activist, told the improvised media briefing on Monday.

The EU Council has recently approved a support measure worth €56.3 million for Bulgarian, Polish, and Romanian farmers hurt by Ukrainian grain flooding the markets. The Polish Agriculture Ministry announced that it would add further millions from the state’s budget, which will make the overall sum intended to compensate the producers for their losses of 280 million zlotys (€59.6 million).

Still, Kołodziejczak believes the proposed sum “is a drop in the ocean, compared to the losses” caused by the flows of Ukrainian grain. “What the EU is now doing is fleeing the problem,” he told EURACTIV.pl.

(Aleksandra Krzysztoszek | EURACTIV.pl)