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Slovakia became the third European Union country to ban food imports from Ukraine on Tuesday, a decision that follows complaints from farmers claiming that a glut of Ukrainian grain is causing them economic hardship even as countries in the Middle East and Africa remain desperate for grain, the Associated Press reported.
The ban will affect grain imports and other foodstuffs, including sugar, fruit, vegetables, and honey products.
Slovakia’s move follows similar ones by Poland and Hungary over the weekend, prompting objections from the European Union, which manages trade on behalf of the 27-nation bloc and objects to unilateral or uncoordinated measures.
EU officials said that a solution must be found that respects bloc laws, noting that “it’s too early” to give a definite answer on the legality of the move, according to Politico.
Five EU countries that neighbor Ukraine – Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland – have asked the bloc to urgently address the issue, warning that they can’t allow their own farmers to bear the cost of disruption that Ukrainian agricultural products are causing their markets.
Bulgaria is considering introducing a similar ban.
Ukraine and Russia are major global suppliers of wheat, barley, and sunflower oil. The Ukrainian conflict has disrupted supplies to developing nations and pushed millions more into food insecurity.
The EU reacted by lifting tariffs and trade duties on Ukraine, which diverted Ukraine’s grain flows intended for Africa and the Middle East through Europe.
However, much of the food remained in neighboring countries, creating a glut that has hit local farmers.
Analysts noted that the decisions undermine the solidarity of the EU and also show the influence farmers’ lobbies have on policy. They described the bans as an attempt by such groups to increase support for the agricultural sector, which already receives generous support from the bloc and national governments.