Bulgaria’s caretaker government temporarily bans imports of numerous foodstuffs from Ukraine

At a meeting on April 19, Bulgaria’s caretaker government appointed by President Roumen decided to impose a ban on imports of numerous foodstuffs from Ukraine, to be in effect from April 24 to June 30 2023.

Bulgaria is the fourth EU country to do so, following similar moves by Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.

The ban applies to more than 20 goods. Among them are wheat; wheat flour; sunflower seeds; sunflower oil; corn; honey and bee products; raw milk; powdered milk; milk concentrate; walnuts; hazelnuts; eggs; chicken meat; pork; sheep and goat meat; rye; barley; oat flakes; sorghum; buckwheat; starches, inulin, wheat gluten; soy; linseed; rape; wine; wine vinegar; and ethyl alcohol.

Bulgaria’s ban will not affect the solidarity corridors set up by the EU to facilitate food exports from Ukraine, meaning that the ban will not affect the transit of Ukrainian grain through Bulgaria to third countries.

Bulgaria’s caretaker government has agreed to the step in spite of the European Commission having warned more than once that the trade policy of the EU is decided collectively and is not within the competence of any individual member country.

Caretaker Agriculture Minister Yavor Gechev told a briefing that Bulgaria’s market was “really saturated enough with crops”.

“We have produce worth billions, which we believe if we do not take additional measures, it will be difficult to sell it on the market and we will suffer serious losses,” Gechev said.

He said that with the already closed corridors in “a number of European countries” goods would be re-directed through Romania and then through Bulgaria.

“The Bulgarian government is reacting according to the information and powers it has,” he said.

Gechev said that there were “serious concerns” from neighbouring countries regarding the phytosanitary qualities of a number of the products. He alleged that some of the products had tested positive for substances not authorised in the EU.

Gechev repeatedly reiterated that Bulgaria expects a working pan-European decision to be adopted about the solidarity corridors and he did not expect that Bulgaria would be sanctioned because of the April 19 decision.

The issue of competitive food imports from Ukraine and the impact on the Bulgarian market has been the subject of repeated reports by some Bulgarian-language media for several weeks and repeatedly has been referred to by Gechev, who participated in a protest by Bulgarian farmers about the issue.

Gechev told the briefing that Bulgaria was “still in solidarity with Ukraine”, referring to the fact that foodstuffs from Ukraine would still be allowed to transit the country.

President Radev is a vocal opponent of Bulgaria supply arms to Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and well before his election to a second term as head of state, spoke out against EU sanctions on Russia imposed after that country’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

(Photo: Darla Hueske/unsplash)

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