Competition from cheaper grain from Ukraine is a growing concern for the eastern European countries, which raised the issue in a joint letter ahead of a ministerial meeting in Brussels.
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia are sounding the alarm: maize exported from Ukraine to its EU neighbours had risen from a few thousand tonnes to several million tonnes by last November, putting their own agriculture under pressure.
In May, the EU set up “solidarity corridors” to prevent large quantities of grain destined for the world market from being blocked in Ukraine because of Russian aggression and the threat of a blockade of Black Sea ports.
These corridors facilitate transport by rail, road and river. However, it appears that much of the grain does not reach the world market, but rather replaces domestic products on internal markets, for example as cheap cattle feed.
EU agriculture ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday to seek to ensure that Ukrainian grain passing through solidarity corridors ends up in EU ports to feed destinations further afield.
The six eastern EU countries say they are ready to continue supporting Ukraine in the agriculture sector, but only if this support does not have too negative an impact on their own markets. For example, they are demanding compensation for their farmers.
Before Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the two countries together supplied up to 34% of the wheat destined for world markets.