Farmers take to the streets due to the EU’s decision in the grain scandal in Ukraine

On Friday, thousands of farmers staged protests in several counties in the country and in Bucharest, dissatisfied with the solution found by the European Commission to the serious problems and imbalances facing the Romanian agri-food sector, against the background of market distortions caused by the conflict army from Ukraine.

Farmers took to the streets, including with tractors and other machinery, unhappy with falling grain prices after Ukraine was granted exemptions to export wheat stored in warehouses duty-free. Protests were staged in such counties as Alba, Arad, Argeş, Bihor, Bistriţa-Năsăud, Botoşani, Brăila, Buzău, Constanţa, Covasna, Galaţi, Iaşi, Mureş, Olt, Satu Mare, Timiş, Tulcea, Vrancea and also in the Capital city.

In Bucharest, over 200 farmers gathered in front of the European Commission headquarters, scandalized by the compensation received, the lowest in the entire region affected by Ukrainian imports. Moreover, compensation from the Government, which should cover the losses suffered by the drought, is difficult to come by.

Nicu Vasile, president of the League of Associations of Agricultural Producers from Romania (LAPAR) said: “For more than 3 years, we have been sounding the alarm regarding products that do not respect traceability, regarding the problems that farmers have in general. We discuss profitability and the lack of strategy at national and European level. We are discussing policies to deceive both the consumer and the producer of grain and agricultural products. The sums are very small compared to the damage it brought to the Romanian economy, over 2.5 billion euros we are discussing here. Not about 10 million euros or I don’t know how much the community is discussing. It’s a mockery of the agricultural sector”.

LAPAR president said that farmers from Poland, Czechia and Bulgaria had also joined these protests in their own countries.

At the end of last week, following the dissatisfaction expressed by several member states, the European Commission announced that it will prepare a second compensation package for European farmers affected by the import of agricultural products from Ukraine. The funds will be 75 million euros and will be announced in mid-April.

The vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said last week that “Romania receives a contribution in relation to the nature of agriculture in our country”.

“I think that the support Romania receives is related to the position it is in regarding its agricultural development. The contribution it receives is related to the nature of agriculture in Romania, and at the same time I know that there is still a huge potential, which remains unused in terms of reform, in terms of investment, and let’s use the coming years to make make this work better,” Frans Timmermans told Digi24.

“We urgently need investments in Romania, the funds are there. If you look at the structural funds, the agricultural funds, the Next Generation EU funds, the innovation fund, the money from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. If you combine all this, we are talking about full percentages of Romania’s GDP, which could be invested, and we should make sure that we do not slow down, that we accelerate these investments. And the Commission is very focused on achieving this. I have also just had a mission from Commission officials to go through the requirements, I hope we can agree soon that the third tranche of payments will be available. So, let’s accelerate investments and then, also, agriculture will grow to a higher level”, the vice-president of the European Commission stated.

Last month, the European Commission granted a package of 56.3 million euros for Bulgarian, Polish and Romanian farmers, 10 million of which was returned to our country. A tiny amount, compared to the loss of 200 million euros calculated by Romanian farmers. Following pressure from these states, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, agreed to increase the amounts and grant a second compensation package, with different weights assigned to the initial package, when Poland received almost 30 million euros, Bulgaria almost 16 million euros, and Romania only 10 million euros.

Thus, the European Commission proposed to come up with a second compensation package, to cover the wider impact on farmers of cheap imports from Ukraine to the EU. These aids are compensations for farmers in frontline states affected by cheap grain imports from Ukraine. The European Commission explained last Thursday that this second package will also target other crops, which were not supported through the first, such as the sugar sector or the honey sector. Romania received compensation for the corn crop, as it experienced the greatest impact of Ukrainian imports. The award criteria could be changed, which is the reason why the weight of allocations per country changes.

Five of Ukraine’s Eastern European neighbors — Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria — have mobilized to demand funds and other tools from the European Commission to offset the “negative effects” of the increased presence of Ukrainian agricultural products on their own their markets.

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