'The European Parliament agreed legislation that will restrict imports to the EU from businesses that cannot prove commodities have been produced without deforestation or degradation of land'

The law of unintended consequences is well established and the EU faced a recent example in agriculture around the resilience of people in Ukraine and the success of programmes to respond to Russian aggression by making it easier for Ukraine to export to the EU.

These have certainly been successful, centred on the creation of solidarity lanes to get goods out of Ukraine through the neighbouring EU member states.

Even without the deal with Russia allowing ships out of Black Sea ports, this has been a huge boost for Ukraine, allowing it in 2022 to restore lost trade to the degree that it becoming the third biggest agri-food export country after Brazil and the UK.

But then, along came those unintended consequences. They have forced the EU to dig into its budget to the tune of an initial £90m to support farmers in the countries bordering Ukraine. These are Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.

They have farms ranging from the big and corporate to the very small, and the smaller family farms claimed they could not compete with a surge of imports undermining their markets and prices.

The EU has been forced to step in with subsidies as the price of retaining unanimous member state support for the solidarity lanes. This outcome was never expected when these were put in place to help Ukraine defend its agricultural economy, but EU member states have demonstrated their continuing unity and willingness to pay to support the Ukrainian economy.

Unintended consequences may have emerged, but on the positive side they demonstrate EU unity in the face of Russian aggression and the resilience of farmers and traders in Ukraine to overcome incredible odds to retain at least some semblance of business as usual.

On the issue of EU unity, that was well demonstrated this week with a seemingly speedy and well-organised joint initiative to extract EU citizens from Sudan, whilst the UK struggled with the logistics, despite access to RAF flights.

The EU is also facing unintended consequences over its ultra-green policies towards pesticides and fertilisers.

Over this issue, it has for years allowed itself to be influenced by public opinion and the very slick European environmental lobby that shapes it.

This, more than science, has driven policy, resulting in an EU target of a 50% reduction in synthetic pesticide use and a 20% reduction in fertiliser use by 2030.

In easy going days, not very long ago, this looked attractive and member states supported the European Commission's plans to wrap agriculture in a green blanket. But then, Russia invaded Ukraine, food price inflation went off the scale and food security and affordability soared past the environment in the league table of people's concerns.

The green lobby is trying to claim this is now settled, despite food price inflation remaining high, but member states are beginning to realise the longer term implications of a curb on pesticides and fertilisers.

Price has already squeezed down usage levels, but now the implications of further cuts are being calculated. While targets are across the EU, individual member states will have to implement the cuts and Italy, for example, would face a 60% reduction in pesticide use. This has huge implications for its productive cereals sector.

Even green countries that used to back this policy, including Germany, are now questioning whether it's deliverable. The European Commission is determined to keep its flagship Green Deal alive, but has a target date of June to deliver a second report showing the policy can be delivered without creating a food security crisis.

This will be a showdown between the environmental lobby and concerns around the food security, including price. A fudge beckons, but member state governments know that with people reeling from food price inflation, now is not the time to urge too many sacrifices for the good of the environment.

On a more positive environmental note, the European Parliament agreed legislation that will restrict imports to the EU from businesses that cannot prove commodities have been produced without deforestation or degradation of land.

The legislation is not aimed at particular countries, but a typical target is Brazil and products in the firing line include beef, coffee, cocoa, palm oil, soya and wood.

To export to the EU companies will have to produce a due diligence certificate and the EU will have a right to check and challenge these. Fines for non-compliance will be at least 4% of a company's total sales in the EU.