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Agriculture ministry: Hungary prepared to help release grain stuck in Ukraine

Hungary is prepared to cooperate closely in helping to expand efforts to free grain stuck in Ukraine, Istvan Nagy, the minister of agriculture, said after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart in Lviv on Thursday.

The current grain crisis concerns not just Ukraine and Hungary, but the entire world, the agriculture ministry cited Nagy as saying.

If Ukraine’s seaports remain closed and the country’s grain is not shipped out, parts of the world could face a famine, and the people living there could set off for Europe, triggering a severe migrant crisis, Nagy said.

He urged immediate and long-term solutions to the grain crisis, saying Hungary was prepared to cooperate in expanding efforts to move grain out of Ukraine. He underlined the importance of developing rail transport, trans-shipment ports and silos, adding that the European Union may also support such investments.

Nagy called for the establishment of a business zone in the Hungary-Ukraine border region that could house grain processing facilities, arguing that such an investment would ensure long-term food security for the world.

But these border-region investments should also serve to expand bilateral economic ties, the minister said. “Our north-eastern neighbour looks to Hungary as a solution to the ongoing crisis and has expressed its gratitude to the Hungarian government for its constructive approach,” Nagy added.

Ukraine is the world’s fourth largest grain exporter, representing 9 percent of the global market share of exports, he said. It also accounts for 42 percent of global sunflower oil and 16 percent of corn supplies, he added.

“Before the war, our neighbour produced enough grain for 400 million people. Nearly 90 percent of its exports were handled through the Black Sea ports,” Nagy said.

The minister urged an immediate ceasefire and talks between Russia and Ukraine. Hungary, since the very beginning, has argued for peace, he noted. “Today it’s clear to everyone that the war hurts Europe the most,” Nagy added.

Later in the day, Nagy discussed grain exports with Viktor Mikita, head of the military administration of Subcarpathia.

Nagy said his discussions focused on operational and practical issues, and they agreed to prepare a joint action plan to be presented to the European Union, with a request for funds to expand capacity at border crossings.

The 4,000 tonnes of wheat that cross the Ukraine-Hungary border each day potentially could be doubled by increasing efficiencies, though this would not unlock the current logjam, he said.

“This is why a much bigger infrastructure investment is needed,” the minister said.

Mikita said Transcarpathia had a big role to play in solving the grain crisis caused by the blockade of the Black Sea ports. Establishing alternative routes on land is an interstate project, though local public administrations must also play a role in this, he added.

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