Bulgarian Farmers and Government Reach Agreement to Cease Protests Against Ukrainian Food Imports

by Ella

Sofia, Bulgaria – Bulgarian farmers, who have staged a prolonged protest against food imports from Ukraine, have announced the end of their demonstration following a breakthrough agreement with the government regarding agricultural imports from neighboring Ukraine.

The accord, which was finalized late on September 19, entails a temporary ban on the import of sunflower seeds from Ukraine and the implementation of quotas on grain imports from Ukraine.


While some stakeholders have pointed out that the agreement does not fully resolve all the issues at hand, the majority of protesting farmers, who had converged with their tractors outside Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, expressed their approval for the draft agreement. The agreement was subsequently signed by representatives of the protesters and the government on September 20.


Iliya Prodanov, Chairman of the National Association of Grain Producers, addressed the demonstrators, saying, “We have no more work here today.”


Following Prodanov’s statement, the farmers disbanded from their gathering point near Sofia.


The farmers initiated their protest on September 18 in response to a decision by the Bulgarian parliament to lift a ban on Ukrainian grain imports. They contended that this move would result in a surge of Ukrainian grain entering Bulgaria as Kyiv sought alternative export routes after a deal with Russia regarding the use of the Black Sea for cargo ships collapsed amid the conflict in Ukraine.

Earlier this year, an influx of grain imports led to a drop in prices for local producers and prompted calls for restrictions on various food products from Ukraine.

Last week, the farmers initially refused negotiations with the government, leading Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov to describe their actions as akin to “terrorism.”

Subsequent negotiations between the farmers and the government ultimately led to a “common approach” that addressed most of the protesters’ demands, according to agricultural producers.

As part of the agreement, the government committed to engaging with the European Commission and the Ukrainian government to establish quotas on Ukrainian grain imports, a measure aimed at preventing oversaturation of the Bulgarian market.

Furthermore, the farmers will receive an additional 150 million leva ($82 million) in subsidies until October 6, acknowledging the adverse effects of the Ukraine conflict. Additionally, the government will allocate an extra 63 million leva ($35 million) for agricultural subsidies in 2023.

In May, Bulgaria was one of five EU member states that imposed a ban on grain imports from Ukraine, citing the need to safeguard the domestic agricultural sector. However, a shift in Bulgaria’s position followed a change in government. Denkov’s administration, which assumed office in June, argued that the ban had deprived the budget of tax revenue and resulted in higher food prices.

Bulgaria’s parliament, on September 14, endorsed the decision to lift the ban on Ukrainian grain imports, a move welcomed by Ukraine. Subsequently, on the following day, the European Commission opted not to extend the overall ban on Ukrainian food entering the five EU member countries. Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia have since independently imposed their own restrictions, prompting Ukraine to announce its intent to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization against these measures.



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