Farmers’ protests against grain imports from Ukraine have begun
Farmers’ protests began across Bulgaria on Monday against the lifting of the ban on imports of Ukrainian grains after September 15, which was decided by the European Commission on Friday with the support of the Bulgarian Parliament. Manufacturers associated with 26 organizations are blocking the most important transport hubs and border control points in the country with heavy equipment.
Bulgarian producers gathered in a total of 46 different places and therefore there are major traffic disruptions in the country. Police are trying to stop demonstrations at some collection points, but grain producers said they were on their way to Sofia, where a nationwide protest is due to take place on Tuesday.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov, who on Saturday accused farmers of “terrorism”, expressed readiness to negotiate on Sunday, but producer organizations did not respond to the invitation to talks. According to the representative of agricultural producers, Mariana Kukuszewa, duty-free imported Ukrainian products are dangerous for consumers and contain poisonous ingredients. This applies not only to cereals, but also to honey and milk, Kukuszewa believes.
At the same time, the Bulgarian food safety agency issued a statement according to which “hundreds of tests have been performed and their results do not indicate that Ukrainian products are dangerous and contain heavy and radioactive metals.” In the period from October 2022 to May 2023, 575 tests of Ukrainian products were carried out, the results of all of them were negative, said the representative of the agency, Ivan Genchev, on Nova TV.
According to Gala Wikiowa from the food safety agency, the safety indicators of Ukrainian sunflower seeds are very good.
The ban on imports of wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower from Ukraine to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia was introduced by the European Commission in early May as a result of an agreement with these countries on Ukrainian agri-food products. Initially, the ban lasted until June 5, and then was extended until September 15. On Friday, the EC did not extend the embargo once again. The day before, the Bulgarian parliament decided it would no longer support him.
After Friday’s decision of the European Commission, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary extended the ban on imports of agricultural products from Ukraine. Romania is refraining from making decisions on this issue, waiting for Kiev’s proposals regarding measures to control the export of Ukrainian agricultural production. Romanian farmers have asked their country’s government to introduce a ban on the import of Ukrainian grains while maintaining transit through Romania. Farmers’ organizations cited, among others: to the decision made by Poland “which comprehensively supports Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression”, but is trying to fight for the rights of domestic producers.