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Farmers' protests: EU to cap some Ukrainian tariff-free imports

A queue of tractors
More than 70,000 farmers were expected to protest EU policies in Poland on Wednesday

The European Commission has proposed a cap on duty-free imports of some Ukrainian produce after months of protests from European farmers.

Under the proposal, oats, eggs, poultry and sugar could be subject to limits to prevent cheap imports affecting farmers in the EU.

All other Ukrainian imports into the EU would remain free of duties until at least June 2025.

These include wheat and barley - despite objections by farmers.

The Commission's proposal will now need to be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament.

Duty-free imports were brought in to support Ukrainian agriculture in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion.

This gave rise to widespread protests by farmers in eastern Europe, who complained of being undercut by cheap Ukrainian agricultural produce that does not abide by EU standards.

In response, the EU said in January it would introduce a "safeguard mechanism" that would allow it to reimpose emergency tariffs on Ukraine if an excess of imports threatened to destabilise the market.

Presenting its latest set of measures, the EU said the decision to cap duty-free Ukrainian imports would "alleviate the pressure on EU farmers should they be overwhelmed by a sudden surge in Ukrainian imports".

But many farmers' unions remain unconvinced.

"This proposal fails to address producers' concerns and hence remains unacceptable," said Christiane Lambert of the powerful Copa-Cogeca European farmers' association.

The head of the French Young Farmers union told French media that even though the deal is "in the right direction... it doesn't go far enough".

Marc Fesneau, the French minister of agriculture, said the deal should have included more cereals, including wheat, and that the final proposal was "not what he would've wanted".

On Wednesday, thousands of Polish farmers once more blocked roads and border crossings with their tractors. Police said 70,000 people were estimated to take part.

Since the protests started earlier this year, the EU has moved to assuage some of the farmers' concerns, particularly with regards to the bloc's sustainability targets.

The EU has said it would reduce the specific demands on the agricultural sector to cut net greenhouse emissions and that it would scrap a proposal halving pesticides. It also granted a partial exemption from the rule on leaving land fallow.