Bulgaria is starting to slow grain vessel loadings through administrative checks in what companies fear is an attempt to halt exports in response to the war in Ukraine, a producers group said on Thursday.
Traders say Bulgaria is among European Union countries seeing extra export demand as merchants rush to replace grain they had planned to ship from Ukraine and Russia, two of the world's biggest suppliers.
“At the moment, not officially, but by oral instructions, Bulgaria is breaching the EU rights for free movement of goods,” Radoslav Hristov, the head of the National Association of Grain Producers, told Reuters.
Hristov said a cargo ship due to load wheat for Portugal is not being allowed to dock at the Black Sea port of Burgas because customs authorities were carrying out document checks.
The customs office was not immediately available for comment, with Thursday a public holiday in Bulgaria.
Reports of slowed vessel loading have fuelled market rumours that Bulgaria is planning a grain export ban.
Impact Of War
That has added to nervousness among traders grappling with the effects of Russia's invasion of Ukraine that has closed Ukrainian ports and prompted Western financial sanctions against Moscow.
Bulgaria's agriculture minister, Ivan Ivanov, said late on Wednesday that no such ban was in force and vessels were not being blocked, adding any checks would be for specific reasons.
Trade policy is a joint EU competence managed by the European Commission.
Romania, which like Bulgaria is a large grain exporter through the Black Sea, briefly banned grain exports outside the EU two years ago when the start of the coronavirus pandemic sparked food supply concerns.
The EU is to consider letting farmers use fallow land, notably to grow protein crops for livestock feed, to counter disruption to supply from Ukraine, officials said on Wednesday after a meeting of the bloc's agriculture ministers.