BRUSSELS: The EU agriculture minister said Tuesday that it is necessary to extend restrictions on grain imports from Ukraine until at least the end of October, despite fierce opposition from Kyiv.
The restrictions -- which have also caused a rift among European Union members -- followed complaints from eastern EU countries that a surplus of Ukrainian grain was driving down local prices and impacting on local farmers, reports AFP.
European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said at a press briefing Tuesday that "we need to prolong, best to the end of the year but minimum to the end of October".
"The problem... is that there is more grain in the storage of the frontline (countries) than in Ukraine and this is the reason that we should prolong this temporary import ban for improvement of the situation in the frontline countries," he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has already slammed the export restrictions on his war-torn country as "completely unacceptable".
And the restrictions have also been contested by 12 EU countries including France and Germany, who expressed concerns over a "lack of transparency" and warned it risked undermining Europe's single market.
Wojciechowski said Tuesday that the European Commission had not yet adopted its position.
Wojciechowski was speaking at a press briefing during an EU agriculture meeting also attended by the Ukrainian agriculture minister Mykola Solskyi, who said it was "not right" for the restrictions to continue.
They are currently set to end on June 5.
Russia's invasion last year severely limited the traditional export channel of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea, necessitating export overland via Ukraine's neighbours.
Member states agreed to allow the import of certain products from Ukraine without quantitative restrictions, and without customs and official inspections.
But farmers in some EU countries protested after a slump in prices, prompting a raft of restrictions and bans on Ukraine's food exports in response.