Slovakia, Romania and Poland move to settle grain dispute with Ukraine

Slovakia, Romania and Poland move to settle grain dispute with Ukraine
Poland is reportedly set to hold talks in the coming days with Ukraine over the export licensing mechanism. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews September 21, 2023

Slovakia and Romania look to have reached a compromise on the contentious issue of Ukrainian grain imports, with Poland also now moving to repair its soured relations with Kyiv.

Slovakia and Ukraine’s farming ministers have agreed to establish a licensing system for trading in grains, Reuters reported on September 21. Romanian Agriculture Minister Florin Barbu has also said that his country is working on a grain licensing system with Kyiv.

Poland is reportedly set to hold talks in the coming days with Ukraine over the mechanism. There was no immediate word on the Hungarian position.

If a deal is reached on a grain licensing system, Kyiv would drop its complaint to the World Trade Organisation. It has already reportedly dropped its action against Slovakia.

Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania imposed unilateral bans on Ukrainian grain imports after an EU ban ended this month. This provoked Ukraine to launch an action for compensation at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the three countries. Kyiv also imposed a ban on certain Polish food products amid a serious deterioration of relations with Kyiv.

Poland has been one of Ukraine's closest allies against Russia's aggression, but relations have soured over Ukrainian grain imports, which Poland says are hurting its farmers. The issue has become political dynamite ahead of the general elections next month. 

Ukraine’s agriculture ministry said negotiations will take place in the coming days with Poland after Agriculture minister Mykola Solsky held a telephone conversation with his Polish counterpart Robert Telus.

“The ministers discussed the situation as well as Ukraine’s proposal for its settlement, and agreed to find a solution that takes into account the interests of both countries,” the ministry said. It added that “the parties confirmed the close and constructive relations”.

Grain exports are Ukraine’s main foreign exchange earner for the cash-strapped government in Kyiv. The export of Ukraine’s grain has been sharply reduced after Russia suspended the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17 preventing Ukraine’s grain leaving by ship.

Since the Russian invasion last year, the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta has become Kyiv's largest alternative export route.

Romania said on September 20 that the export licence system should settle its dispute with Ukraine.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis announced  that "solutions have been found" both for the transit of Ukrainian agricultural products and “for their export through Romania”. 

Iohannis made the announcement after a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Mariya Gabriel in New York. 

Romania's farming minister also expressed his satisfaction with the deal.

"I am confident that this mechanism proposed by the European Commission, taken on board by Ukraine and negotiated by us in farmers' interest, will fully function," said Barbu.

"Export licenses for Ukrainian companies will become operational in 30 days," he said Barbu, reported AFP. "During this time, Romania will also create a clear import-licensing procedure for Romanian farmers and processors."