EUROPE – Eucolait, the European Dairy Trade Association, has condemned the recent actions taken by Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia to ban the import of Ukrainian agri-food products, including dairy.

Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia moved to implement a temporary import ban on Ukraine’s agri-food products from Ukraine to protect local farmers against cheap produce from the war-torn nation.

The organization condemned the move noting that it was a unilateral move by the countries to go against EU trade policy creating uncertainty and a climate of mistrust for all operators across the supply chain.

“We can say overall for the EU that the impact of dairy imports from Ukraine has been minimal,” Alice O’Donovan, legal and policy advisor at Eucolait, noted in an interview.

“In percentage terms, we see a significant increase in the volume of butter and skimmed milk powder entering the EU in 2022 vs. 2021. However, this is off the back of a very low starting base volume. Any of this product coming into the EU is dwarfed in volume by the overall EU production.”

Eucolait is calling on the European Commission (EC) intervention to protect Ukraine’s preferential trade treatment.

“Appropriate action should be taken to ensure that the integrity of the single market is not compromised by disjointed national measures and that solidarity with Ukraine can be maintained,” highlighted O’Donovan.

Eucolait argues that national actions to disregard this EU trade policy measure only serve to fragment the Single Market and undermine European unity and solidarity.

Alice noted that solutions to any potential disruptions created by opening the EU market to Ukrainian goods should be sought at the European level instead of taking such unilateral decisions.

“In the dairy case, there is no disruption to speak of, and any measure to restrict trade would lack economic justification,” she underscores.

“Although imports from Ukraine have increased since the removal of tariffs, the volumes in question are relatively low compared to EU production and the European market size for these products.”

According to EC data, dairy prices in the EU reached historic highs in 2022 and continue to be much higher than in 2020 in every category.

Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania flagged last month that the EU should move all the grain surplus out of their states and toward Africa for humanitarian purposes and to achieve “the original goal of the Solidary Belts.”

Nonetheless, Eastern European countries bordering Ukraine warn that infrastructure in the region can’t handle the large amounts of Ukrainian foodstuffs incoming, which they can’t effectively move toward Western EU nations.

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