Ukraine insists agri goods are safe as EU countries strike imports ban deal

Ukraine’s agricultural goods are safe and comply with EU safety standards, Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister stressed in an exclusive interview with EURACTIV just as a deal was struck with EU frontline countries to end the ban on Ukrainian agricultural imports.

The unilateral decision of EU frontline countries to halt the import of Ukrainian agricultural goods came after EU measures designed to increase imports from the war-torn country saw an influx of products, pushing prices up and EU farmers to the edge.

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While a deal was struck in principle between the European Commission and the frontline countries to resume trade on Saturday (29 April), a question mark remains over how concerns over potential health risks for humans, as well as animals and plants, will be handled.

According to reports, 1,500 tonnes of wheat imported from Ukraine into Slovakia was found to contain chlorpyrifos, a pesticide banned in the EU back in 2020, despite the fact it was not intended for the EU internal market, but for third countries.

Likewise, Poland has raised phytosanitary concerns, pointing out it has made a number of alerts via the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), designed to keep other countries abreast of future potential risks.

Asked about the concerns, Markiyan Dmytrasevych, Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister, insisted there is nothing to worry about.

Banned pesticides found in Ukraine agri imports prove sticky point

The detection of pesticides banned in the EU in shipments of wheat from Ukraine have added an extra layer of complexity to the unilateral decision of several neighbouring countries to block all Ukrainian agricultural imports, muddying the legality of the situation.

“Since 2016, when we signed the association agreement, we are implementing all the EU security standards,” he told EURACTIV in an interview, adding that the country’s one year of experience of free trade was a “successful story”.

“Ukrainian food has a good standard of quality and the amount of input to the EU gives us [an] understanding that this quality is acceptable for the EU [and] European consumers,” he said, adding there are “no such concerns about [the] security of Ukrainian food”.

While the minister acknowledged the need to develop Ukraine’s internal food safety system further, he was confident this would not pose a problem in the future.

“I’m sure this won’t be an obstacle that won’t give us an opportunity to enter the EU,” he said.

Exports: A question of survival

The minister stressed the importance of these agricultural exports to the EU, impressing that they are key to the survival of Ukraine’s agricultural sector.

“We do understand the struggles that face our neighbours because of war prices on the grains,” he said. “But at the same time in Ukraine, we have a war, and this export is crucial for us – not to earn money, not to gain something additional, but to survive.”

Pointing out that the agrarian sector is one of the “biggest parts of the Ukrainian economy”, the deputy minister said it was “very crucial” to give Ukrainian farmers the possibility to sell their goods, especially as the sowing and harvesting campaigns get underway.

‘Tough discussions’ expected in the future

Looking to the potential future accession of the country into the bloc, the deputy minister acknowledged that it will be a challenge to fit Ukraine’s agricultural system to that of the EU.

“It’s completely understandable for us, and also for the EU, that we have to find some compromise model of implementing the Ukrainian agriculture sector to the European agriculture sector,” he said, adding that he “understand[s] that we will have tough discussions in the future”.

“Our priority [is] to become a member of the EU – it is crucial for Ukraine,” he said, adding that, as he is sure “every European country understands” that this is a vital step for the future security of the EU, he was ‘confident’ a compromise will be found.

[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna/Nathalie Weatherald]

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