BRUSSELS — A deal struck only a week in the past between the EU government and the bloc’s Eastern frontline states to clear an enormous grain glut is already falling aside, and with it, the bloc’s unity in supporting Ukraine within the face of Russia’s struggle of aggression.
The April 28 deal basically had two components: The first was a brief ban on imports of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed that might enable some respite for the group of 5 Eastern international locations — Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania — to clear the backlog.
The second was to facilitate the transit of Ukrainian produce throughout the territory of the 5 international locations, enabling shipments to proceed to third international locations — significantly these within the Global South which have confronted disruptions to supplies, and rising hunger, because of Russia’s invasion final 12 months and blockade of Ukraine’s predominant Black Sea export route.
Poland has led calls to distribute the excess within the type of humanitarian support: “Maybe we can also cooperate with U.N. agencies, maybe we can cooperate with the World Food Programme,” Warsaw’s ambassador to the EU, Andrzej Sadoś, advised POLITICO.
There’s only one drawback with that concept, EU officers shoot again: Millions of tons of grain piled up within the area’s warehouses are unfit for human consumption.
“Arguments that it would be needed for food aid should be taken with a very large grain of salt,” a Commission official advised POLITICO. “You could even call it perfidious.”
An EU diplomat, granted anonymity to enable them to communicate candidly, was equally scathing of the conduct of Poland’s right-wing authorities, which desires to shore up the farm vote forward of a normal election due this fall.
“Polish representatives use blackmailing tactics,” this diplomat mentioned, referring to Warsaw’s transfer to block separate agreements to finalize a long-awaited cooperation deal with African nations and agree on a package deal of sanctions towards Belarus, which has sided with Vladimir Putin’s Russia within the struggle.
“This episode has created a lot of bad blood and will have a psychological and political impact on the cohesion within the EU when it comes to supplying Ukraine.”
Not of curiosity
An inside evaluation by the Commission discovered that the majority of the stockpile was solely appropriate as animal feed — and never for distribution by the World Food Programme, which normally buys high-quality wheat for milling and delivers it as meals support within the type of flour.
“Most of the grains available for export in the 5 [Member States] are feed grains which are not of interest for WFP,” the doc, seen by POLITICO, mentioned. “Additionally, we have to be careful in our political narrative and actions, to avoid being accused of wanting to export feed-quality grains to the countries in need.”
A Polish spokesperson mentioned some 2.5 million metric tons of the 4-million-ton surplus of grains and oilseeds had been for feed.
The WFP doesn’t sometimes purchase maize, of which some 8.7 million tonnes are held within the the 5 Eastern EU international locations, the evaluation additionally discovered. Rapeseed and sunflower seeds had been additionally not usually purchased by the WFP, the doc said.
A WFP spokesperson declined to remark.
The Commission official made it clear that commodity speculators who had sought to revenue from the surge in meals costs that adopted Russia’s invasion in February 2024, solely to be caught out, mustn’t count on to be bailed out on the expense of European taxpayers.
“That’s the risk of the trade. And these are not practices for which European support should be given,” the official mentioned. The Commission evaluation estimates that the price of buy and cargo of some 3 million tonnes of wheat from EU international locations would come to between €1.5 billion and €3 billion.
A U.N. evaluation final 12 months supports that argument, suggesting that the Russian invasion led to “excessive speculation” on commodity markets, with merchants betting disruptions to Black Sea provide routes would trigger international grain costs to skyrocket.
Concerns additionally emerged Friday that the week-old deal to ban imports however enable transit throughout the Eastern EU states was not working as supposed. A Ukrainian official and an EU diplomat advised POLITICO that Romanian officers had been stopping shipments of Ukrainian grain on the Black Sea port of Constanța, citing a brand new EU rule banning storage on its territory.
A Romanian supply with data of the matter denied, nevertheless, that transit shipments had been halted. “Transit is going okay. And it’s not a problem,” the supply mentioned in response to a POLITICO inquiry.
Additional reporting by Bartosz Brzeziński, Sarah Anne Aarup and Susannah Savage.