Polish minister apologises to Ukraine for spilled grain incident: Farmers' emotions got the best of them

Tuesday, 13 February 2024

Polish Agriculture Minister Czesław Siekierski has apologised to Ukraine for the grain-spilling incident that happened on Sunday, 11 February.

As reported by the press service of the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Siekierski said that the grain spilling was "not an entirely appropriate form of protest", but at the same time added that it is "often used by farmers in various countries".

"The farmers may have let their emotions get the best of them, but we should remember that they are in a very difficult economic situation. Right before the beginning of spring fieldwork, they have no money to buy fertilisers and pesticides. It is easy to understand their desperation," said the Polish minister in a statement.

Siekierski noted that he advocates for dialogue and direct negotiations as the best way to address tough problems.

"On behalf of Poland’s farmers, I apologise for such an act of desperation and ask that others be understanding of their extremely rough situation. We are engaged in technical negotiations with the Ukrainian Agriculture Ministry, during which we intend to work out a plan to limit the influx of goods that is undermining the stability of agricultural markets," the minister emphasised.

Meanwhile, he called the reaction of the Ukrainian government "not entirely restrained". He believes that "the statements by the Deputy Minister of the Economy and earlier by the Lviv mayor were too harsh, and other Ukrainian politicians were too emotional in their communication".

"I understand the Ukrainian government’s dissatisfaction concerning the difficulties in exporting agricultural products. I also fully understand that trade goes in both directions and we also export to Ukraine," Siekierski added.

He believes that "Polish farmers have been helping Ukraine and want to continue helping in the future".

"However, they would like this financial assistance to Ukraine to benefit the [smallholder] farmers, not the oligarchs who own vast expanses of land for growing grain and other agricultural commodities. They are the main driving force for these massive [exports of products from Ukraine], which undermine the stability of agricultural markets in Europe," the minister noted.

Farmers from all around Poland started a new protest action on Friday, 9 February. It will see Polish-Ukrainian border checkpoints and roads leading to them blocked, and it is expected to last for 30 days.

On Sunday, 11 February, Polish farmers protesting near the Ukrainian border spilled some grain from three Ukrainian lorries near the Yahodyn-Dorohusk checkpoint.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that those guilty of such radical actions must be held accountable.

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