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Polish Farmers Spill Ukrainian Grain

by Wangah Wanyama
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Warsaw, Poland

Protesting Polish farmers on Tuesday pried open two Ukrainian freight cars on the border and spilled grain on the tracks, police said, angering Kyiv and reigniting tensions between the neighbouring allies.

Polish farmers have been blocking Ukrainian trucks from entering their country to protest what they say is unfair competition from cheaper imports from their eastern neighbour, souring otherwise friendly ties between Warsaw and Kyiv.

On Tuesday, the farmers launched a new wave of protests, staging a blockade of around 100 roads to the Ukrainian border as well as forcibly opening two Ukrainian railcars at the Medyka border crossing.

“A group of farmers entered the tracks that run along the blocked road…  A small amount of grain was discovered spilt on the tracks,” a spokeswoman for the local police in Medyka told AFP.

Poland has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine in its efforts to fight off the Russian invasion, but the protests by disgruntled Polish farmers drew an angry response from the Ukrainian officials.

Reacting to the grain incident in Medyka, the Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky said Kyiv “strongly condemns such forms of protest”, adding the freight car was carrying corn to Germany.

“Obstructing Ukraine’s trade with other countries of the world is unacceptable and contradicts common Ukrainian-Polish goals,” Solsky said in a statement.

Ukraine has seen its agriculture sector turned upside down by Russia’s invasion, with many of its Black Sea export hubs blocked and farmland rendered unusable by warfare.

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov called the grain incident a “political provocation aimed at dividing our nations”.

“For two years, Ukrainian farmers have been harvesting grain in bulletproof vests, under rocket attacks and mine danger,” Kubrakov said on X (formerly Twitter) adding that global food security “depends on Ukrainian grain”.

Ukraine’s state railway company on Tuesday also denounced the move, saying in a statement it was “outraged by such actions of Polish protesters and calls for an end to illegal actions”.

A Ukrainian truck driver walks past trucks bannered with messages and Ukrainian flags as he takes part in a protest against the blockade of the border by the Polish protesters at the Rava-Ruska border crossing point of the Ukrainian-Polish border, on February 20, 2024, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. – Polish farmers have been blocking Ukrainian trucks from entering their country to protest what they say is unfair competition from cheaper imports from Poland’s eastern neighbour, souring otherwise friendly ties between Warsaw and Kyiv. Ukrainian President on February 19, 2024, denounced a week’s long border blockade by Polish truckers and farmers which his government has said threatens the country’s security. (Photo by YURIY DYACHYSHYN / AFP)

– ‘Farming is dying’ –

Across Europe, angry farmers have been protesting over rising costs, high fuel prices, bureaucracy and the environmental requirements in the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its forthcoming “Green Deal”.

Dozens of tractors travelled to Ryki, a town in eastern Poland, to block a major highway that leads to the Ukrainian border.

Farmers hung red and white Polish flags on their tractors along with placards that said: “Stop the uncontrolled influx of Ukrainian goods” and “Farming is dying little by little”.

Roads into EU member Poland have been an export lifeline for Ukraine, particularly its agriculture sector, after the 2022 Russian invasion complicated major trading routes through the Black Sea.

But the increase in road imports has angered Polish logistics companies and farmers, who say their Ukrainian rivals are undercutting them.

“I’m here to get rid of the restrictions introduced by the European Union regarding fallow land, the Green Deal and above all to stop Ukrainian food flowing in,” Tomasz Golak, who runs an animal and cereal farm in a nearby village, told AFP.

“This year wheat is selling for half the price it did last year,” he added.

The 27-nation EU last year eased restrictions that obliged farmers to keep part of their land fallow and this month extended that exemption under pressure from protests.

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the blockade demonstrated an “erosion of solidarity” and could not be “considered normal or ordinary.”

bur-mmp/rlp

© Agence France-Presse

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