April 19. 2024. 8:36

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Polish PM demands EU takes action over cheap Ukrainian grain influx

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will send a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calling for immediate steps to remedy Polish farmers’ problems since the EU allowed cheap grain imports from Ukraine.

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 Hungary.

“We will issue a letter to Ursula von der Leyen (demanding the Commission) to reduce the influence of (Ukrainian) grain on its neighbouring countries,” Morawiecki told the press briefing on Wednesday, adding that “Ukrainian grain is destabilising our market,” Gazeta.pl reported.

Poland is willing to help Ukrainian grain reach Africa where it is needed the most, said Morawiecki, insisting that Poland had never agreed for it to enter the Polish market and destabilise local sales.

Warsaw expects the Commission to “use any instruments and procedures” to solve the problem, he added.

Morawiecki’s announcement comes as more local farmers protested en masse in the country, claiming that the government deceived them last year by saying that wheat prices would go up.

Farmers are demanding the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Henryk Kowalczyk. They even went as far as to throw eggs at the minister at one of the events, participated by EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski.

“The minister failed to secure the prices of grain and other crops,” Michał Kołodziejczak, leader of the farmers’ AGROunia movement and the key face of the food producers’ protests in Poland in recent years, told EURACTIV.pl.

Kowalczyk, who not that long ago claimed the problem caused by Ukrainian grain “overegged” and blamed Brussels for it, said on Wednesday that Poland would apply to the EU for the clause to be launched that he said allows for special steps in the suspension of import limitations causes market disruptions, RMF FM radio reported.

However, this solution is “unacceptable”, said Kołodziejczak, who demands the EU imposes tariffs on Ukrainian grain while also introducing sufficient compensations to those who suffered from the consequences of mass grain influx from Ukraine.

“Polish food producers who have lost their money must have it returned. This is their money,” he told EURACTIV.pl in an interview.

The situation with farmers’ protests is becoming urgent for the ruling Law and Justice (PiS, ECR) party, with parliamentary elections due later this year. PiS has long enjoyed high support in rural areas, but with the farmers, many of whom admit having voted for PiS in the past, getting increasingly angry at the government, the ruling camp risks losing part of its key electorate.

The problems are even worse for PiS as Kołodziejczak, whose high popularity earned him the nickname of “Justin Bieber of Polish agriculture” in some media, also has political ambitions. Earlier this month, a political party founded by AGROunia was registered under the name of the Social Movement.

The polls give Kołodziejczak’s new party 2.7% support. Still, AGROunia, which cooperates with a small Agreement party that withdrew from the government in 2021, has denied plans to ally with any bigger opposition party.

(Aleksandra Krzysztoszek | EURACTIV.pl)