Agriculture Minister: We are asking Ukraine to withhold exports to Bulgaria pending clarity

Bulgaria’s government is insisting that Ukraine withholds exports to Bulgaria until the goods, quantities and mechanisms for licensing regimes are fully specified, Agriculture Minister Kiril Vatev said on September 18 in an open letter to grain producers.

Vatev sent the letter against the background of a protest by grain producers and some other agricultural organisations against the decision by Bulgaria’s Parliament on September 14 that the European Commission’s (EC) ban on imports to Bulgaria of various basic foodstuffs from Ukraine should be allowed to expire.

The protest, which organisers claim is open-ended until their various demands are met, led to temporary traffic disruptions in parts of Bulgaria as agricultural machinery was used to block roads.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov repeatedly has accused the protest organisers of seeking confrontation rather than negotiations. He has said that many of their demands referred to problems that already had been solved.

Vatev said that produce in Bulgaria, produced in line with all European standards, was threatened by dumping.

“Our solidarity with Ukraine is obvious, continues and will not stop. The only thing we want is to protect the economic interests of Bulgarian food producers as much as the health of Bulgarian consumers,” he said.

“The government of Academician Nikolai Denkov and Mrs. Maria Gabriel does not stop defending our national interest even now.”

He said that already on the night of September 15 into 16, following the EC’s decision to lift the ban on imports from Ukraine “a series of talks were held that are continuing even now”.

“We are insisting that Ukraine withholds exports to Bulgaria until the goods, quantities and mechanisms for licensing regimes are fully specified,” Vatev said.

“The clarification of the above details cannot be done correctly without the participation of the branch organizations from the agricultural sector,” he said, extending an invitation to talks with chosen representatives “at any time”.

On September 15, the EC said in a statement on the lifting of the ban that Ukraine had agreed to introduce any legal measures (including, for example, an export licensing system) within 30 days to avoid grain surges.

Until then, Ukraine was to put in place from September 16 effective measures to control the export of four groups of goods in order to prevent any market distortions in the neighbouring member states, the EC said.

“Ukraine will submit an Action Plan to the platform no later than close-of-business on Monday September 18 2023,” the Commission said.

It said that the EC and Ukraine would monitor the situation to be able to react to any unforeseen situations.

The EC said that it would refrain from imposing any restrictions “as long as the effective measures by Ukraine are in place and fully working”.

Speaking to bTV on September 18, Bulgaria’s Transport Minister Georgi Gvozdeikov said that the Ukraine grain problem was part of Russian propaganda.

“They are trying to destabilise the clear direction that Bulgaria has and the clear goals,” Gvozdeikov said.

He said that the caretaker government (appointed by President Roumen Radev) had imposed the ban through a request to the EC and he accused the caretaker government of strictly fulfilling the requirements of Russia.

“The problem with the subject of Ukrainian grain import again starts as propaganda from the Russian state, since the export of grain from the Black Sea is significantly limited, not to mention prohibited,” he said.

“We have nothing to lose by importing Ukrainian grain. The goal is to ensure faster export to countries that need it, such as countries in Africa. Bulgaria will provide a solidarity corridor to a port from where the grain will be distributed. We will earn a lot of money from transport,” Gvozdeikov said.

(Photo of Vatev:

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