Agriculture and the agricultural value chain are important pillars of the Ukrainian economy. Prior to the recent geopolitical changes, agricultural commodities constituted about 20% of national exports and dairy products ranked number four in the list of main agricultural export products, after cereal, vegetable oils and oilseeds. The main export destinations were CIS countries, and in particular Russia, and several Asian and African countries. Exports to Russia have been severely affected recently by the current geopolitical difficulties, but already previously exports to Russia and other destinations were subject to significant fluctuations as a result of import bans.

The lack of compliance with EU and international food safety standards is a major obstacle towards the export ambition of the country towards EU and other higher quality markets and also represents a serious public health concern for national consumers due to the potential presence of milk pathogens or pharmaceutical residues (e.g. antibiotics). This has, for the time being, de facto nullified the possibilities for Ukraine to export high value-added final products (e.g. milk, cream, cheese) to the EU or other high-end markets due to the rigorous milk quality and safety standards required by EU member states. However, a recent mission by the Food and Veterinary Office of the European Commission noted that commendable improvements have been achieved in several areas even though many areas for further improvement continue to exist.

The causes for failure to comply with international food quality and safety standards are multifaceted and range from incompatibility of the legal framework with international food safety standards, over incomplete implementation and enforcement of existing standards, to a lack of awareness about the importance of compliance with such standards among producers, the public sector and consumers.

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