Polish Agriculture Minister Falls on Sword as Zelensky Visits Poland

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (R) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) stand together before their meeting at the Chancellery in Warsaw, Poland, 05 April 2023. Photo: BIRN

Polish farmers, who had threatened they might organise a "surprise" during the visit, have been protesting against Ukrainian grain, originally meant for markets further west or even other continents, getting stuck in Poland and seriously lowering prices of similar Polish produce. The farmers have been complaining about the situation for months, but in recent weeks their protests intensified, including actions that brought hundreds of tractors onto the streets.

According to Tomasz Obszanski, leader of the "Solidarity" Individual Farmers Association, as much as 3 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain has been dumped onto the Polish market since last year. The Ukrainian grain is only meant to pass through Poland on its way to other destinations, as part of solidarity routes that the EU helped put in place when Russia blocked Ukrainian exports via the Black Sea.

But Polish farmers have been complaining that much of the grain ends up flooding the Polish market instead. They also claim that even if the Ukrainian grain is destined for industrial purposes, it gets mixed with Polish grain and turned into animal feed and flour, without any quality checks.

Rural areas have traditionally been a key source of support for the Law and Justice party (PiS), and the farmers' protests over the last year is a major worry for the ruling party ahead the autumn general election.

Farmers had been complaining particularly about the performance of the agriculture minister, Henryk Kowalczyk, whom they claimed had done little to address to crisis. Therefore, when Kowalczyk...

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