April 14, 2024

The opposition among Bulgarians to Ukrainian grain has been incited by Russian propaganda, the country’s Transport Minister Georgi Gvozdeikov told the local TV channel bTV on Sept. 18, as local farmers launched protests against grain shipments from Ukraine.

The Bulgarian parliament voted last week not to unilaterally prolong the EU ban on domestic sales of Ukrainian agricultural products, which expired on Sept. 15.

However, the Bulgarian government asked Kyiv to withhold its grain shipments until the goods, quantities, and mechanisms for licensing regimes are fully specified, the Sofia Globe reported.

Fearing the influx of cheaper Ukrainian grain, Bulgarian farmers launched a nationwide protest against the decision, blocking the roads across the country.

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According to Gvozdeikov, the profits of Bulgarian farmers actually rose in 2022 compared to the previous year even though the import of Ukrainian grain was allowed at the time.

The minister said that the opposition to agricultural imports from Ukraine has a political purpose and is meant to “destabilize the clear (political) direction that Bulgaria took.”

Gvozdeikov added that Bulgaria has nothing to lose by importing Ukrainian produce and can even benefit from the resulting value-added tax (VAT).

The Euroactiv news outlet said that disinformation on Ukrainian grain has been widely spread on Bulgarian social media. According to some of the false claims, the products from Ukraine contain heavy metals, such as uranium.

The Bulgarian authorities carried out inspections and found no such issues, Euractiv reported.

In May, the Commission imposed a ban on sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seed in five EU countries: Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. The nations requested the measure due to fears from local farmers that cheap Ukrainian imports would drive down agriculture prices.

While the Commission decided not to extend the ban after Sept. 15, citing data indicating that Ukrainian imports would no longer negatively impact local markets, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary decided to continue to restrict imports of Ukrainian agricultural products.

Romania said it will also extend the restriction by 30 days until Kyiv and Bucharest can work out a precise import licensing plan.

Read also: Media: Kyiv denies grain proposal rejected by 5 EU members

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