Poland will extend its ban on imports of grain from Ukraine unless the European Union allows its own restrictions to stay in place beyond Friday—a move that raises tensions with both Kyiv and Brussels.
The government in Warsaw approved the plan Tuesday, effectively issuing an ultimatum to the EU three days before the scheduled expiration of the bloc’s measures. Meanwhile, Hungary and Romania reiterated that EU import restrictions should be extended until at least the end of the year.
“We’re convinced that the EU is wavering and will allow for the extension” of the current restrictions, Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus said in a radio interview on Tuesday. “If it doesn’t, then we’re going to act tough because it’s in the interest of Polish farmers.”
Ukraine has sought alternative export routes for its grain after Russia blocked most shipments via the Black Sea shortly after its invasion last year. Some eastern European countries have since restricted grain imports from Ukraine, on grounds that the flows are undercutting their own farming sectors. The collapse in July of a deal to facilitate exports from the Black Sea has heightened tensions.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka warned that Kyiv will file a complaint at the World Trade Organization if Poland introduces a unilateral ban on Ukrainian grain. The government in Warsaw will still allow for the transit of Ukraine grain through its territory to the ports on the Baltic Sea or to be sold elsewhere in the EU.
The decision comes little more than a month before a parliamentary election in Poland on Oct. 15. Farmers are an important constituency for the ruling Law & Justice party, which is fighting to stay in power for a third term. The glut of grain imports on the domestic market sparked protests earlier this year.
Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have each pushed for an extension of the ban. Romania and Bulgaria have expressed more flexibility on the arrangements at EU-wide talks and avoided mentioning a potential unilateral ban. Hungarian Agriculture Minister Istvan Nagy is holding talks on the matter with his counterparts from Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, he said in a video on his Facebook page.
The European Commission—the EU’s executive arm—should extend restrictions on grain imports from Ukraine at least until the end of 2023, Nagy and his Romanian counterpart, Florin Barbu, said in a joint statement following their meeting Tuesday.
Romanian farmers have threatened to block ports and border checkpoints used to aid the transit of Ukrainian grains if the ban isn’t extended.
Spain’s olive oil
A surge in the price of olive oil in top grower Spain has increased the cost of making a traditional paella to its highest in five months.
Bloomberg’s monthly index, which calculates how much Spanish households need to spend on ingredients to make the Mediterranean rice dish, jumped 18.3 percent in August from a year ago, accelerating from a 15-percent rise the previous month.
This compares with an uptick in the rate of headline inflation to 2.4 percent and a slight slowdown in the pace of overall food price increases to 10.5 percent.
Olive oil led the spike, shooting up 53 percent in August from a year ago as Spain reels from devastating droughts. Prices have risen so much that thieves are targeting olive oil mills in the south of the country, and supermarkets have started to place security tags on bottles.
While inflation in Spain has slowed sharply from double-digit levels last year, the cost of making paella is a reminder of lingering price pressures on everyday items that continue to hit consumers in the euro zone’s fourth-biggest economy.
The European Commission forecasts year-end inflation of 3.6 percent in Spain, one of the lowest rates among major economies in the region and below the euro area’s average. Bloomberg News