EU border delays stymie Ukrainian attempts to move grain

Ukrainian farmers have expressed their frustration that trucks moving their grain to the West are being held up for days at the EU border due to excessive bureaucracy.

Farmers are desperate to move the remainder of last year’s harvest and have been looking to truck it into Europe by road, as all the shipping ports in Ukraine are closed.

See also: Ukraine accuses Russia of selling stolen grain to other countries

Even though there are many ships on quaysides – some full of grain – they cannot transport it to where it is needed.

This is partly because the crews have all gone, but also because there are many mines in the sea.

Instead, farmers have been sending their grain in trucks to Europe to try and generate some cashflow, and to clean out their bins to have enough storage space for this year’s harvest.

Farmer view

Crops and livestock farmer Kees Huizinga farms 15,000ha at Cherkasy, 200km south of Kyiv, with his two business partners.

The farm is home to 2,000 dairy cows, 450 sows, and grows crops for export, including wheat, maize and sunflowers. 

With the ports closed, Mr Huizinga has resorted to sending his three trucks loaded across the road border into Romania, but complains of heavy bureaucracy.

“As well as waiting five and more days in the queue to get out of Ukraine into Romania, they have to wait days at the border on the other side to return home,” he said.

“The situation is crazy. People across the world are going to starve if we cannot get Ukrainian grain to them, yet our trucks are being held up due to paperwork – some of which is not even essential.

“I have driven past the queues myself. There is 25km of trucks on the Ukraine side waiting to cross into Poland, and the drivers are waiting five to six days there.

“If farmers start moving larger volumes of grain towards Poland, then these queues will easily reach 100km long.

“In a few weeks’ time, farmers in Romania – as well as other countries – will start harvesting their own grain.

“If this mess is not sorted out, their logistics will not be able to handle additional Ukrainian crops on top of their own,” said Mr Huizinga.

Food crisis

The logjam comes at a time when the UN has said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could cause a global food crisis that may last for years.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said this week the war had worsened food insecurity in poorer nations due to rising prices.

He added that some countries could face long-term famines if Ukraine’s exports are not restored to pre-war levels.

Mr Guterres said the conflict, combined with climate change, “threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity, followed by malnutrition, mass hunger and famine”.

Last weekend, the G7 group of leading nations called for countries to open up “green corridors” to facilitate the flow of Ukrainian food into other markets.

And on Thursday (19 May), the European Parliament backed a one-year suspension of EU import duties on Ukrainian exports, including fruit and vegetables.

The measure will apply on the day following its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.