MEPs have been warned that rejecting proposed new poultrymeat quotas with Ukraine could allow unlimited export expansion to continue.

The EU Commission has negotiated an increase in the Tariff Rate Quota for breastmeat from 20,000t/year to 70,000t/ a year, the latest Agriculture and Rural Development Committee heard.

John Clarke, director of international trade at DG Agri told MEPs that, if ratified, the new agreement would close the loophole which allows Ukrainian producers to export unlimited amounts of breastmeat with the wing still attached.

“[That practice] was perfectly legal under the free-trade agreement,” Mr Clarke said. “But it was not what we intended or expected.”

In closing the loophole, though, an expansion of the Tariff Rate Quota was negotiated. At 70,000t/year, it is slightly below the total amount of breastmeat – including the controversial cut – that Ukraine exported to Europe last year. “This is the correct WTO methodology for dealing with this problem,” said Mr Clarke.

“If we did not have this agreement Ukraine would be at liberty to expand even more.”

A number of MEPs opposed the expansion, but Mr Clarke said: “Be careful what you wish for. Without this limit unlimited amounts can be exported perfectly legally under the terms of the agreement

“I think we got away very lightly with an additional 50,000t TRQ.”

The new arrangement must still be approved by Europe’s parliament.

Mr Clarke added that a document outlining an animal welfare strategy that aims to bring Ukrainian standards in line with Europe’s was near adoption. “Ukraine is very aware it must do that sooner rather than later.”

Ukrainian poultry union praises arrangement

The Poultry Union said it welcomed the deal, which represented a “compromise” for both parties.

In a statement the union, which represents poultry businesses in Ukraine, noted that the country remained a net importer of poultry meat from the EU. In 2018, it said, EU countries sent 129,782t of poultrymeat to Ukraine, while Europe imported 105,510t.