Spain eases corn import controls as war threatens feed shortage

The Spanish government said Tuesday it would temporarily ease import controls on corn from Argentina and Brazil to offset potential shortages in animal feed caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Spain eases corn import controls as war threatens feed shortage
(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 5, 2019 a harvester works on a corn field at Brazilian cattlebreeder Luiz Medeiros dos Santos' farm in Ruropolis, Para state, Brazil, in the Amazon rainforest. - Brazil, one of the largest crop producers in the world, expects to increase its maize exports after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but fears that the conflict could make it difficult for it to import fertilisers. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP)

“We have taken an important step in lifting these import restrictions,” Agriculture Minister Luis Planas said after the weekly cabinet meeting, adding it would “ensure supplies” for livestock breeders concerned by war-related shortages.

Spain is a major buyer of corn for cattle feed, a quarter of which it normally purchases from Ukraine, the world’s fourth-largest grain exporter.

But supplies have been jeopardised by the war, with Madrid pressing Brussels to ease restrictions on imports from Latin America due to pesticide residues which are limited within the European Union.

On Friday, the European Commission agreed to allow a temporary easing of the rules for EU member states in order to ease feed shortages.

Last year, Ukraine supplied Spain with nearly 1.9 million tonnes of maize which is crucial for its livestock sector, one of the biggest in Europe.

Many international organisations have expressed alarm in recent days over the impact of the war in Ukraine — often referred to as Europe’s bread basket because of its vast grain exports — on global food supplies.

Most grains produced in Ukraine are exported in the summer and autumn.

Last week, the UN’s World Food Programme warned that the longer the conflict continued, the more exports would be affected, with a particular impact on Africa.

READ ALSO: The food products that are more expensive in Spain due to war in Ukraine

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Spain’s PM sent booby-trapped letter as more explosives detected

Pedro Sánchez received a booby-trapped letter last week which was "similar" to one which exploded Wednesday at Ukraine's embassy in Madrid, whilst two other explosive packages have been sent to other key locations in Spain.

Spain's PM sent booby-trapped letter as more explosives detected

Security staff carried out a “controlled explosion” of the mailed item, whose “content was similar” to that found in other letters sent to the Ukrainian embassy, an air force base, the defence ministry and a military equipment firm.

The envelope, “containing pyrotechnic material” and addressed to Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, arrived by regular mail on November 24th, the interior ministry said in a statement.

On Wednesday the security officer at Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid lightly injured his hand while opening a letter bomb addressed to the Ukrainian ambassador, prompting Kyiv to boost security at its embassies worldwide.

Spain’s High Court has opened a probe for a possible case of terrorism.

Later in the evening, a second “suspicious postal shipment” was intercepted at the headquarters of military equipment firm Instalaza in the northeastern city of Zaragoza, the interior ministry said.

Experts carried out a controlled explosion of that mailed item as well.

Instalaza makes the grenade launchers that Spain donates to Ukraine.

Earlier Thursday, security forces also detected a “suspect envelope” at an air base in Torrejón de Ardoz outside of Madrid which is regularly used to send weapons donated by Spain to Ukraine.

Police were called to the base “to secure the area and investigators are analysing this envelope” which was addressed to the base’s satellite centre, the interior ministry said.

“Both the characteristics of the envelopes and their content are similar in the four cases,” it said in a statement, adding police had informed the National Court of the four incidents.

A fifth envelope with “explosive” arrived at the defence ministry in Madrid on Thursday morning, a defence ministry source told AFP.

Experts blew up the package at the ministry, the source added.

‘Terrorist methods’

Ukraine’s ambassador to Spain, Serhii Pohoreltsev, appeared to blame Russia for the letter bomb that arrived at the embassy.

“We are well aware of the terrorist methods of the aggressor country,” he said during an interview late Wednesday with Spanish public television.

“Russia’s methods and attacks require us to be ready for any kind of incident, provocation or attack,” he added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba ordered the strengthening of security at all Ukrainian embassies, the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson said Wednesday after the letter bomb went off at the embassy in Madrid.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February in what it calls a “special military operation”, which Kyiv and the West describe as an unprovoked land grab.

In addition to sending arms to help Ukraine, Spain is training Ukrainian troops as part of a European Union programme.