Ukraine poultry exports attract French producers’ fury

MHP chair says the anger against the company is a result of a misinformation campaign by competitors and whipped up by French and European politicians.

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At an international agricultural event in Paris at the weekend, farmers’ anger was met with action from riot police. While French poultry producers blame growing Ukrainian imports for their difficulties, it is clear that the challenges are more wide-ranging, and faced by farmers across the EU. 

Last week, a senior executive of Ukrainian agri-food group MHP denied accusations from some quarters that the company is opposing the European Union (EU) or its farmers.  

According to Politico, the firm’s executive chair John Rich said the recent anger expressed against the company amounts to a disinformation campaign orchestrated by competitors, and whipped up by French and European politicians.

In Rich’s view, among those raising the political temperature in France against MHP — Ukraine’s largest poultry producer — are President Emmanuel Macron, and national poultry meat organization ANVOL.

Following a recent summit, President Macron alleged that the EU was enriching the founder of MHP at the expense of European farmers, he said. He added that ANVOL has described chicken imports from Ukraine as “unfair competition.”

Ukrainian exporters are not to blame for the woes of farmers in France or in the EU generally, according to Rich.

Furthermore, he added, MHP founder Yuriy Kosiuk does not benefit significantly from trade with the bloc. Rather, as the largest tax-payer in Ukraine, MHP is helping to support the defense of the country against the Russian invasion. 

Fundamental causes of EU farmers’ anger

Even before the war started two years ago, poultry producers in the bloc accused MHP of exploiting a loophole in the EU-Ukraine trade agreement. According to Politico, this deal allowed the firm to expand greatly its exports of chicken breast meat.

In June of 2022, the EU temporarily granted Ukraine full trade liberalization under an Autonomous Trade Measures (ATM) Regulation. It aimed to support the Ukrainian economy following the invasion, and ease conditions for the country’s producers and exporters. The ATM involved suspending import duties, quotas, and trade defense measures for imports from Ukraine. The regulation was extended for a further year in June of 2023.

The latest data for the EU poultry market published by the European Commission (EC) cover the January-November period of last year.

They show that the bloc’s total poultry meat imports (carcass weight) increased 5.8% year-on-year to around 837,500 metric tons (mt). Of this total, 217,800mt was from Ukraine, and this was over 47% more than in the corresponding period of 2022. However, volumes from both China and Chile each increased by between 10 and 15%, and the leading exporter was again Brazil (274,200mt).

European farming organization Copa-Cogeca last week called on the European Parliament to take action of the Ukraine ATM. Without revision, the EU’s poultry meat, egg, sugar, grain, and honey sectors will become economically unsustainable, it says.

French farmers protest

In France, farmers’ anger and frustration reached a peak at the start of the annual Paris International Agricultural Show.

They stormed the venue ahead of a planned visit by President Macron, reported France 24. Following clashes with demonstrators, riot police were need to restore order.

The same source previously reported that French farmers are angry with the national government, and not just the president. Feeling a lack of respect from the authorities, they are also expressing frustration over rising costs — particularly fuel — and EU regulations.

No doubt aware of the escalating crisis across the EU farming sector, the EC has outlined some possible action to reduce the administrative burden on farmers.

Setting out a series of short- and mid-term actions that would help simplification of various processes, the paper was sent to the Belgian Presidency for discussion at the meeting of the Agricultural Council on February 26.  

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