Romanian farmers ask government to ban Ukrainian grain

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian farmers asked the government on Saturday to unilaterally ban the import of Ukrainian grain and other food products after the European Commission decided to lift restrictions.

Romania is one of five eastern EU countries alongside Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia that saw a surge of Ukrainian grain imports after the Russian invasion, which distorted local markets and prompted protests from farmers, leading the EU to approve trade restrictions until Sept. 15.

Poland, Slovakia and Hungary announced their own unilateral bans on Friday. The Romanian government said it would wait for Ukraine to present its plan to prevent a surge on Monday before deciding how to protect Romanian farmers.

"If a country like Poland, which strongly and thoroughly supports Ukraine against the Russian aggression has taken such a unilateral decision after the Sept. 15 deadline expired, we don't understand why Romania would be reserved about doing the same," the farmers' association said in a statement.

"Our request in no way affects the transit of Ukrainian farm products through Romania to other destinations, as it is going on at present."

Ukraine shipped 9.2 million metric tons of grains through the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta in the first eight months of the year, and 8.6 million tons overall in 2022.

Constanta is Ukraine's main route out for exports after Russia abandoned a deal that lifted a de facto Russian blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports in mid-July.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by David Goodman and Ros Russell)