Only “agrarian Ramstein” will solve the problem with Ukrainian grain – ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland

Only “agrarian Ramstein” will solve the problem with Ukrainian grain – ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland


Anna Fotyga, a member of the European Parliament and general secretary of the Party of European Conservatives and Reformists, suggested creating an “agrarian Ramstein” based on the model of the International Contact Group on Defense Aid to Ukraine, the first meeting of which was held at the American Ramstein military base in Germany. She said this during her stay in Washington in an interview with Voice of America.

Similar to the defense group, which has more members than NATO, the “agrarian Ramstein” would also include those willing from different regions of the world, exporters and importers, who would jointly solve the main problems due to the lack or surplus of agricultural products in different markets of the world.

According to Fotyga, who in 2006-2007 headed the Foreign Policy Department of Poland, and in 2007-2008 – held the position of the head of the Office of the President Yaroslav Kaczyński, the problem with the sale and transportation of Ukrainian grain became one of the three consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine, while The Kremlin seeks to harm the West.

Russia first provoked the migrant crisis on Belarus’ border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in an attempt to destabilize the countries most willing to help Ukraine in its war with Russia.

The second was the energy crisis associated with Russia’s restriction of gas supplies to Europe in order to create an artificial deficit. But then, the Polish politician points out, there was a clear awareness that this crisis is global and it must be solved by joint efforts. Europe managed to overcome its dependence on Russian gas. According to Reuters, in 2023 Russian Gazprom sent 28.3 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe. For comparison, in 2022, Gazprom supplied 63.8 billion cubic meters. m of gas, and during the peak level of supply (in 2018-2019) – 175-180 billion cubic meters. m. The direct supply of oil and oil products from Russia to Europe fell almost to zero.

And the third, according to Fotiga, is the destabilization of world markets for agricultural products. Like the first two, she says, this problem must be solved comprehensively and with joint efforts.

Strikes by Polish farmers on the border with Ukraine began in November last year, and since February 20, Polish farmers have blocked the movement of trucks from Ukraine at six checkpoints, later partially allowing traffic through one of them. According to Andriy Demchenko, the spokesman of the State Border Service, about 1,700 trucks are expected to cross the border on March 11. Among the main demands of the farmers are the closing of the border for Ukrainian grain and the cancellation of the so-called “Green Agreement”, a reform designed to make the EU climate neutral by 2050.

“The scope and scale of this problem exceed the EU’s ability to solve it. It’s bigger, it’s global, it’s huge,” Fotiga says.

According to her, the reason for this was the fact that Russia pushed Ukraine out of traditional grain supply markets, such as China and India. According to the Ministry of Economy, in 2021, agricultural sector products were exported for $27.7 billion (40.7% of the total export of goods). The largest importers of Ukrainian agricultural goods were China, India, the Netherlands, Egypt and Turkey.

The EU, for its part, opened access for Ukrainian agricultural products at one point, without calculating the consequences, she believes.

“Normally, in peacetime, the negotiations between the EU and Ukraine on agriculture, changes, modifications on both sides would probably last the longest of all the negotiations (on accession to the EU – GA), because there are huge structural differences. We decided to open the markets through war and the desire to help Ukraine. But, I think, we did not understand the scale of this problem,” she says.

Polish Deputy Minister of Agriculture Michal Kolodziejczak said in an interview with PAP that Ukrainian grain, rapeseed and corn do not stay in Poland, but go through transit, Ukrainian Pravda reports. Kolodziejczak nevertheless assumed that a certain amount of Ukrainian grain could arrive in Poland from Germany, where there is no embargo on these Ukrainian supplies.

Fotiga is convinced that even small amounts of Ukrainian grain entering Poland threaten the existence of Polish farmers.

“The plot of the average Polish farmer is 40 hectares. The largest area in Ukraine, as far as I know, is 1 million hectares. Polish peasants supported Poland during partitions, occupation, atrocities and now they face a real chance of being simply completely eliminated. These are family farms,” ​​she says.

Fotyga notes that it is difficult for Polish farmers to compete with Ukrainian exporters.

“We are talking about actually huge agricultural enterprises, most of which are registered abroad, not in Ukraine,” Fotiga claims.

“Before the war, the EU was not the main market for Ukrainian grain. Please understand that the war has changed directions. It’s not blocking something that existed before because of God knows what influence. This is a completely new phenomenon – the destruction of Polish farmers who are small landowners, unlike Ukraine, where large oligarchic enterprises operate. I know that there are also small farmers,” she says.

This, Fotiga explains, is superimposed on other changes, such as the entrance to the European market of other exporters, primarily Brazil.

At the same time, according to the data of the State Customs Service of Ukraine and Eurostat, Ukrainian Pravda writes, from March 2022 to March 2023, the export of grain from Ukraine to Poland increased sharply, and from June 2023 it stabilized at the same or even lower level than in February 2022 and earlier.

Alex Lissitsa, an expert in the agricultural and food sectors of the economy, president of the Ukrainian Agrarian Business Club, agrees that the situation on the global grain markets has changed dramatically in the last 30 years and that both countries, Poland and Ukraine, are not such big players in this market to influence him.

“Countries that used to be exporters and global players, the so-called market makers, have now undergone changes. This concerns, first of all, the role of the countries of the European Union. This year, for the first time, Brazil overtook the US in terms of corn exports, and Russia accounts for about 30% of global wheat exports,” he wrote in a written response to Voice of America.

Lissitsa disagrees with the characterization of the Ukrainian agricultural sector as large farms, most of which are in foreign ownership.

“The majority of Ukrainian agricultural holdings are Ukrainian property, and most of the owners are citizens of Ukraine, or they are registered on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, where Polish pensioners are among the shareholders. Thus, it is illegitimate to say that foreign structures control Ukrainian agriculture,” he says.

According to him, out of “32 million hectares of agricultural land in Ukraine, only about 5 million hectares belong to large agricultural enterprises. The rest belong to farmers and medium-sized enterprises.”

And it is small farmers from Western Ukraine who try to export their grain through Poland, because it is more economical for large companies to transport it through the Black Sea, the expert explains.

“Small Polish farmers are generally not competitive on the world market, regardless of the situation in Ukraine. With an average farm size of 11 hectares, profitability becomes a serious problem,” Lissitsa concludes.

The last time negotiations on unblocking the border between Ukraine and Poland took place on February 28. According to Deputy Minister of Economy, Trade Representative of Ukraine Taras Kachka, the parties are working on a constructive solution.

“One of the most intense and intense meetings in my professional life. We were able to find a common language and are working on a constructive solution to unblock the border and take into account the interests of Polish and Ukrainian farmers. It’s not easy, but it’s possible,” he wrote on Facebook.

Until the beginning of 2022, about 95% of all export deliveries of Ukraine went by sea, Lisitstsa says. According to the Ukrainian authorities, in the seven months since Ukraine independently opened a special corridor through the Black Sea, about 30 million tons of cargo have passed through it.

According to Fotygi, this is an important achievement of Ukraine in solving the problem on the border with Poland, and now the efforts of Ukraine and partners should be directed to keep the sea route open.

“I know that there are numerous efforts on the part of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania. The Ukrainians themselves have done a tremendous job for this, but perhaps it should be supported by the supply of weapons,” she says.


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