Poland and Ukraine struck a deal on April 18 that will unblock Ukrainian grain exports passing through Polish territory en route to third countries.
The agreement comes two days after Poland closed its border for Ukrainian agricultural commodities in an attempt by the government to assuage farmers protesting against the unchecked inflow of Ukrainian grain, which, they claimed, depressed prices of local produce.
In line with the agreement, grain will transit Poland under surveillance only to Polish ports or to other countries, without an option to change once the destination has been declared, Poland’s Agriculture Minister Robert Telus told a news conference.
“We were forced to close the border because the EU had its eyes closed on large amounts of grain flowing into Poland, but at the same time we continued talks with Ukraine on how to enable transits, but with a guarantee grain would not be stuck in Poland, and we managed to find a solution," Telus also said.
The Law and Justice (PiS) government in Warsaw has been in political trouble over the influx of grain from Ukraine. Six months before the election, PiS needs support of the rural electorate in order to win the vote and secure a third consecutive term in office.
Hungary and Slovakia have also introduced bans on Ukrainian grain imports, with Romania and Bulgaria reportedly mulling doing the same.
EU had earlier reacted angrily to the bans imposed by Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, saying that trade policy is the bloc’s exclusive competence and unilateral actions by member states violated EU law.
It remains unclear if Poland’s infrastructure is enough to handle millions of tonnes of grain, as transit includes the changeover of trains from Ukraine’s broad-gauge tracks to Poland’s standard gauge, the use of storage capacity and the capacity to reload grain from trains onto ships at ports.