Ukraine tank

The government will remove all tariffs on Ukrainian goods, including food, the Department for International Trade said this week.

Announcing the cuts, which followed Boris Johnson’s recent visit to the eastern European nation, trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the UK would “continue to do everything in its power to support Ukraine’s fight against Putin’s brutal and unprovoked invasion”.

Cutting tariffs ”on key Ukrainian exports including barley, honey, tinned tomatoes and poultry”, according to the department, would “help Ukrainian businesses and producers when they need it most”.

Ukraine was a lynchpin food producer before the war and one of the world’s main sources of barley, corn, sunflower oil and wheat. However, UN estimates suggest 30% of the country’s farmland has been left unfit for planting as fighting rages, with the government forced to limit exports to retain enough food for what is left of its war-wracked population.

Along with offering refuge to over 5 million fleeing civilians and cutting trade barriers, western nations have supplied weapons and money to Ukraine while sanctioning Russia, itself a major food supplier and one of the world’s main sources of coal, gas, fertiliser and oil.

The UK government on Tuesday said again it was “bolstering” measures against Moscow “by increasing the list of products facing import bans” and by tacking 35 percentage points on to tariffs on good such as diamonds and rubber to match similar tariffs imposed last month on goods such as Russian vodka.

Earlier measures included “banning the import of many iron and steel products as well as the export of quantum technologies, advanced materials and luxury goods”. 

Foreign secretary Liz Truss told the House of Commosn the government took ”decisive action on trade”, including cutting Russia off from WTO terms and banning high tech exports to halt their technological development”.

While Russia’s economy could contract by around 8% this year due to sanctions, tariffs and boycotts put in place in retaliation for its invasion, Ukraine’s backers – Germany in particular – remain reluctant to sanction Moscow’s pivotal and colossal energy sector, which fuels and heats much of Europe. Others, including the UK, have wavered over targeting Russian fishing fleets, which catch around 40% of the world’s whitefish.

The late-February invasion by Russia added to an inflationary and supply chain crisis that began almost two years ago as pandemic lockdowns and border closures disrupted world trade.

“The increase in energy prices over the past two years has been the largest since the 1973 oil crisis”, the World Bank said, with food commodity price rises ”the largest since 2008”.

Wheat faced a 40% rise this year, the most on record, according to the bank, which warned the worldwide spike in food and energy prices “could last for years”.

”The increase in prices of some commodities is also driving up prices of other commodities – high natural gas prices have raised fertiliser prices, putting upward pressure on agricultural prices,” the bank explained in a report published on Tuesday.