EU Mulls Restrictions on Imports of Russian Agriculture Products

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(Bloomberg) -- The European Union executive is preparing a proposal to restrict the import of agricultural products from Russia to the bloc following appeals from some member states that want to put further pressure on the Kremlin.

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in a phone call Friday that the bloc’s executive arm would issue its suggestions shortly, according to a statement from the EU.

Von der Leyen and Tusk discussed a broad range of agricultural issues, including the recent wave of protests by farmers across the bloc. She said the EU will also make some changes to its Common Agricultural Policy to respond to some of the farmers’ concerns.

The bloc also plans to suggest largely scrapping rules that require farmers to keep part of their land fallow, instead making it into an incentive scheme, von der Leyen told Tusk.

Applied retroactively from the start of this year, it would mean that farmers are encouraged to maintain non-productive areas, but they no longer would risk losing income if they don’t, one of the key complaints from farmers’ groups.

Read more: EU Set to Water Down Climate Rules to Placate Angry Farmers

Food producers have been pushing back against EU environmental rules and bureaucratic hurdles. They have also been upset by an influx of Ukrainian grain, as the EU seeks to buoy the nation’s trade during Russia’s invasion. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia last year introduced unilateral bans on Ukrainian crops bowing to the pressure from farmers who saw prices on their own products drop.

On the planned limits on Russian agricultural products, the EU isn’t planning to restrict transit to third countries, according to a person familiar with the plan who asked not to be identified because the information is not yet public.

Some member states have been calling for a bloc-wide ban on agricultural products from Russia and Belarus, with Latvia becoming the first EU nation to do so earlier this year. Tusk also called for a full ban and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said her country would support this initiative.

Some nations have pushed the commission to include a ban on food imports in a 14th package of sanctions against Russia, according to another person familiar with the discussions. The EU approved the latest package of sanctions last month.

--With assistance from Ewa Krukowska, Megan Durisin and Áine Quinn.

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