Poland has agreed to end a ban on the importation of grain and other agri-food products from Ukraine but only for produce that is in transit to third country destinations.

The agreement was forged in talks between the two countries in Warsaw yesterday (18 April)

European Union member states Poland, Hungary and, most recently, Slovakia have imposed import bans to protect their markets from an influx of cheaper supply from Ukraine. Romania and Bulgaria have both been tipped to follow suit.

The moves have been criticised by war-torn Ukraine, while the European Commission has said such unilateral actions by European Union member states are unacceptable.

News agency Reuters, sourcing a senior EU official, reported its envoys are set to discuss the bans today (19 April).

The deal agreed between Poland and Ukraine yesterday will come into force at midnight on Friday (21 April).

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By GlobalData

Customs, tax and other authorities will accompany vehicles crossing the border to their destination while electronic seals will track every shipment.

“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 grains would not be stuck in Poland, and we managed to find a solution,” Poland’s Agriculture Minister Robert Telus told a news conference in Warsaw.

Slovakia followed in the footsteps of its counterparts in Poland and Hungary in temporarily halting shipments from Ukraine. The countries say they are trying to protect their domestic farming industries from having to compete with duty-free produce from Ukraine.

Slovakia, like Poland and Hungary, is unhappy that Ukrainian grain – significantly cheaper than that produced in the EU – is staying in the bloc rather than being sold on to developing nations.

However, Slovakia is not preventing the importation of Ukrainian grain, which is in transit to third-country destinations.

Ukraine is exporting more produce either to or via neighbouring countries by land because of the difficulties it has encountered shipping it out of Black Sea ports ever since Russia invaded the country more than a year ago.

The EU lifted duties on grain from Ukraine to ease distribution to developing markets via the land route. Russia, which is threatening to pull the plug on a deal to allow produce to leave via the sea route, has repeatedly claimed grain shipped out of Black Sea ports is ending up in richer Western countries rather than in developing nations.

United Nations humanitarian agencies warned yesterday 48 million people in west and central Africa face acute food insecurity in the coming months, with the war in Ukraine contributing to food and fertiliser shortages.