EU eyes tariffs to 'choke off' Russian grain sales

EU eyes tariffs to 'choke off' Russian grain sales


EU eyes tariffs to 'choke off' Russian grain sales

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Brussels (Belgium) (AFP) – The EU is looking to "choke off" revenue Russia uses for its war on Ukraine by slapping "prohibitive tariffs" on grain and related imports into the bloc, under a plan being put to a leaders summit on Friday.

Moscow responded immediately by saying Europeans would "suffer" from the move.

The added sanctions, welcomed by Kyiv, will not apply to Russian grain transiting through the European Union to other markets, so as not to disrupt food supplies elsewhere, EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky complained to the EU leaders meeting in Brussels Thursday, via video link, that it was not fair Russian grain continued to have "unrestricted" access to their markets, while Ukrainian imports were being limited.

Brussels has been seeking to increase pressure on Moscow's finances after several rounds of sanctions that have already frozen Russian assets in the 27-nation bloc, targeted leaders including President Vladimir Putin and curbed trade.

At the same time, the European Commission has been multiplying concessions to EU farmers, who have been holding protests over depressed income, part of which they blame on grain imports from war-torn Ukraine.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said late on Thursday that the proposed tariffs would "prevent Russian grain from destabilising the EU market in these products".

Moscow warned against the plan.

"Consumers in Europe would definitely suffer," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Global food security

Dombrovskis, speaking on Friday, said: "Today's proposal will choke off another important source of revenue for the Russian government to fund its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine."

The tariffs were also to be imposed on products from Belarus, which served as a staging ground for Russia's all-out invasion of Ukraine.

The proposal follows an increase in Russian agricultural imports into the EU in 2023, according to the commission.

The tariffs would target imports of cereals, oilseeds and derived products from Russia and Belarus, applying at a level of either 95 euros ($103) per tonne or 50 percent of the value, depending on the product.

"Our proposed prohibitive tariffs will make imports of these products commercially unviable," Dombrovskis said.

"It will also help put a stop to the Russian practice of illegally exporting stolen Ukrainian grain into the EU", Dombrovskis said.

Under World Trade Organization rules, virtually all Russian grain has until now been exempt from EU import duties.

Despite sanctions taking aim at huge swathes of Russia's economy, the EU until now avoided targeting the farm or fertiliser sectors for fear of destabilising the global cereal market and undermining food security in Asia and Africa.

"We have been careful to uphold global food security," Dombrovskis said, adding that the move "will not affect the transit of Russian and Belarussian grain products to third countries."

Russia last year exported 4.2 million tonnes of cereals and related agricultural products to the EU, for a total value of 1.3 billion euros. Belarus imported 610,000 tonnes, with a value of 246 million euros.