wheat grain cereal

The European Commission has replied to an appeal by PN spokesperson Peter Agius to ensure the free movement of grain across national borders after Hungary moved to restrict the export of cereals, saying such “unjustified obstacles are unacceptable and counterproductive for the common goal of food security”.

Malta has a reputation for getting particularly ‘hangry’ when bread becomes scarce. PN spokesperson Peter Agius, presumably in an attempt to avoid bloodshed, wrote to the European Commission in March, alerting it to restrictions to exports being applied or considered by Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.

He asked it to intervene to secure the freedoms of the European Union and food security in Malta, noting that wheat is a fundamental supply source for the production of over 80 per cent of bread and bread products consumed in Malta.

In its reply, the Commission described the grain export restrictions as a “serious and prima facie unjustified restriction on the free movement of goods”.

Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski reiterated the Commission’s “strong opposition” to measures that attempt to protect domestic food supply by preventing exports.

“Such trade distorting measures are a priori incompatible with the Single Market and ultimately have a negative impact on food security,” he wrote, adding that along with Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton he had written to the Hungarian authorities, asking them to withdraw the 5th March decree which imposed the restrictions.

“We emphasised that the continued functioning of the Single Market is of utmost importance in dealing with the adverse market developments following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and that, in this regard, unjustified obstacles are unacceptable and counterproductive for the common goal of food security. We are now awaiting the reply from the Hungarian authorities,” he said.

Reacting to the Commission’s reply, Mr Agius said that Malta “needs to ensure that EU freedom of movement is respected by all member states to secure our food security. Failure to do this will lead to higher cost of living costs as we have already witnessed in recent weeks.”

He continued: “We must remain vigilant to ensure the Maltese people enjoy their rights in the EU. We must not let our guard down. Putin’s senseless aggression on Ukraine has put several markets under stress. We must not allow European Member States to turn their back on Treaty obligations and act protectionist in this moment where solidarity should prevail.

“This is what Union membership is all about and we must stand ready to fight for it whenever it does not deliver to the Maltese people’s expectations.”

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