Ukraine agrees with Poland on grain transit with Black Sea deal under threat Ship’s crew

Reuters

By Pawel Florkiewicz, Marek Strzelecki and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk

WARSAW, April 18 (Reuters) – Poland on Tuesday agreed to lift a ban on the transit of Ukrainian grain and food products, but Ukraine said a war deal allowing it to safely transport grain from Black Sea ports is still threatened.

Unless exports to Eastern European countries resumed or an extension of the Black Sea Grains Agreement secured, large quantities of grain would remain trapped in Ukraine, affecting its exports and causing further economic problems for Kiev as it battled Russian troops.

EU member states Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have imposed import bans to protect their markets from an influx of cheaper supplies Russian invasion Ukraine, and Warsaw banned their transit through Poland over the weekend.

But Poland’s Agriculture Minister Robert Telus said a second day of talks in Warsaw had brought a breakthrough, with transit to be monitored and sealed. The agreement will come into force at midnight on Friday, said Development Minister Waldemar Buda.

“We were forced to close the border because the EU closed its eyes because large amounts of grain were flowing into Poland, but at the same time we continued talks with Ukraine to allow transits, but with a guarantee that no grain Poland is stuck in this and we managed to find a solution,” Telus said at a press conference in Warsaw.

First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Svyrydenko told the press conference that she was confident that Ukrainian exporters would respect the terms of the deal agreed with Poland.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the other countries that have imposed import bans on Ukraine would react after the deal in Warsaw, with Romania likely to impose a similar ban earlier on Tuesday.

Large amounts of Ukrainian grain are trapped by shortages in Eastern and Central Europe as low global prices and demand mean grain cannot be easily resold.

The shortages have lowered prices and affected local farmers’ sales, putting political pressure on governments in the region, particularly the Polish government ahead of an election.

The EU has criticized member states for imposing individual bans and EU envoys will discuss the measures on Wednesday, a senior EU official said.

Bulgaria is also considering a ban. The Czech Republic has said it will not impose its own ban but would like an EU solution.

BLACK SEA GRAIN DEAL IN DOUBT

Ukraine, which depends on grain and food sales for a significant portion of its gross domestic product, also has concerns over the Black Sea Grains Initiative brokered between Moscow and Kiev by Turkey and the United Nations last July.

The initiative, which aims to ease global food shortages by allowing exports to resume from three ports that have been blocked in Ukraine, expires on May 18.

It’s unclear if it will be extended as Russia says a separate deal to facilitate its own agricultural and fertilizer exports has not been honored.

“It threatens to be stopped, and Russia has again blocked the inspection of ships,” Svyrydenko said at the press conference in Warsaw.

“It is extremely important for us to unblock transit, otherwise Ukraine will remain blocked. We cannot, together with our partners, give Russia the opportunity to take advantage of this situation,” she said.

Russia’s RIA news agency said on Tuesday inspections had resumed, but a senior Ukrainian official told Reuters: “Nothing has been resolved.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said there were no ship inspections on Monday and Tuesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will argue Ukraine’s Black Sea grain export deal with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres next week in New York, Russia’s UN envoy said on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz and Anna Koper in Warsaw, Luiza Ilie in Bucharest, Krisztina Than in Budapest, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev, Humeyra Pamuk in Tokyo and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, writing by Timothy Heritage, editing by Jason Neely, Sharon Singleton and Jonathan Oatis)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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