The European Union (EU) has made a “big mistake” by granting free trade to grain from Ukraine, a Hungarian agriculture expert has said.
“I have to say that the EU’s method of solving this problem is quite strange,” Toth Laszlo Levente told Xinhua in an interview.
Once known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine already had a large backlog of agricultural products due to its conflict with Russia before the EU’s decision in June 2022 to lift tariffs on Ukrainian exports for one year to support the country’s economy.
Most of the Ukrainian grain did not reach its traditional markets, such as Africa, instead getting stranded and distorting markets in neighboring countries.
“Ukrainian grain has flooded … the eastern part of Europe, causing a massive price decrease in the market. It didn’t even leave the borders,” said Levente.
Hungary joined Poland in banning imports of grain and other food products from Ukraine on April 16, in an attempt to protect its domestic farming industry. Similar bans have followed from Slovakia and Bulgaria.
“The market players are happy about the ban, but it’s not enough. That’s why the Minister of Agriculture has been advocating for support from Brussels to help facilitate the exit of the grain stuck within the borders, (to help it) reach places like Africa where it is truly needed,” he added.
Hungary’s Agriculture Minister Istvan Nagy called on the EU on April 20 to introduce progressive subsidies for the transportation of Ukrainian grain within the EU, to protect farmers in Central and Eastern Europe.
The same day, the head of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyas, said that exports of corn from Ukraine had increased by 7,000 percent, and those of grain by 1,000 percent, between 2021 and 2022. This led to disruptions in agricultural distribution channels, especially in countries bordering Ukraine.
The EU is self-sabotaging, Levente said. “It is clear … that the EU serves the interests of the United States,” he added.
According to Levente, the EU is now planning to introduce a series of regulations that will result in a decrease in animal husbandry in Europe, citing environmental concerns. However, it will import chicken from Brazil, beef and other products from the U.S. at a high cost.
“I don’t know where the EU is heading and why they are thinking like this, when it really is a region blessed with flourishing production opportunities,” said Levente.