Ukraine says it will sue Poland, Hungary and Slovakia over food import bans

FILE PHOTO: Corn sits at a grain storage in a farm, in Timar

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine plans to sue Poland, Hungary and Slovakia in the World Trade Organization over bans on Ukrainian agricultural products, Ukrainian officials said on Monday.

The appeal could be sent "in the near future", a senior official said, and followed a decision by the three countries bordering Ukraine to ban imports of the country's key export commodities.

Politico had earlier on Monday quoted Ukrainian Trade Representative Taras Kachka as saying in an interview that Kyiv planned to sue the three countries.

Restrictions imposed by the European Union in May allowed Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, while permitting transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere.

Poland, Slovakia and Hungary announced their own restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports on Friday after the executive European Commission decided not to extend its ban on imports into Ukraine's five EU neighbours.

Warsaw, Bratislava and Budapest say they are acting in the interests of their economies and their farmers.

Kachka told Politico that Ukraine could also impose reciprocal measures on the import of fruit and vegetables from Poland if Warsaw did not drop its additional measures.

Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus said Warsaw's ban covers four cereals, but it was also extended to include meals from these cereals: corn, wheat, rapeseed.

PAP news agency quoted Radoslaw Fogiel, the head of Poland's parliamentary foreign affairs commission, as saying Ukraine's decision to sue would "reverberate badly in Poland" and that Ukraine should be aware of this.

"Our decision is not aimed at Ukraine, it is dictated by the protection of the Polish farmer and the protection of Poland's interests," he said.

The EU allowed its ban to expire on Friday after Ukraine said it would take measures to tighten control of exports to neighbouring countries.

Kachka said Kyiv was ready to "take on the responsibility to ensure that export from Ukraine is not creating any tsunami in neighbouring countries" and would impose a system of "real time" export licenses for grains.

Farm ministry data showed 1.4 million tons of Ukrainian farm goods left the country by train in the first three months of the 2023/24 July-June season out of a total export volume of 4.5 million tons. Ukraine ships grain by train via crossings with Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Ukraine also shipped by rail an additional 1 million tons of oils and oilseeds.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk, additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczuk-Semczuk, writing by Anna Pruchnicka, Editing by Timothy Heritage)