By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán discussed the issue Tuesday, “including rail transport of grain,” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a spokesman confirmed.
Earlier Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine “is threatening to cause global food shortages and triggering further migration waves.”
The World Bank has said a food crisis looms over some 400 million people in the Middle East, Africa, and South-East Asia, he added.
“These are countries that are already sources of migration or are avoiding that fate with great efforts,” Szijjártó noted on the sidelines of a European Union foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg.
A blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russian military and ongoing battles has virtually halted the export of grain and other food produce.
Ukraine, blessed with fertile soil, contributes 42 percent of the sunflower oil traded globally, 16 percent of the maize, and 9 percent of the wheat, according to United Nations estimates.
Several nations heavily need this produce, including Lebanon, which imports 80 percent of its wheat from Ukraine, and India, 76 percent of its sunflower oil.
The U.N.’s World Food Program, which feeds people on the brink of starvation in countries such as Ethiopia, Yemen, and Afghanistan, sources 40 percent of its wheat from Ukraine.
Szijjarto said “the vicious circle threatening the world,” resulting in high prices fuelled by high inflation and dwindling exports of agricultural products from Ukraine and Russia.
“The lack of alternative resources and the fact that Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus are important players in the world market of artificial fertilizers is exacerbating the problem,” he said.
Szijjarto complained that several speakers at this week’s foreign ministers gathering called for further arms deliveries to Ukraine. “I am not entirely sure this is the best global solution to a food shortage.”
Hungary, a member of the EU and NATO military alliance, has refused to deliver weapons to Ukraine. Instead, it pledged to provide humanitarian aid.
The country of nearly 10 million people also took in some 800,000 refugees from Ukraine, though most went on to other countries.
Dunja Mijatović, the human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe, expressed concern about the few refugees staying here.
She noted that of the hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving here, Hungary registered only around 23,000 people for temporary protection by June 1.
Mijatović also criticized reported discrimination of Gypsies, who prefer to be known as Roma, from Ukraine and non-Ukrainians fleeing the country “who did not receive benefits.” She wrote in a letter that she is “deeply concerned” by the situations of third-country citizens and stateless individuals.
Mijatović said they could not apply for asylum in Hungary but only at the Hungarian embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Hungary defended its policy, claiming it wants to help “real refugees” and that people fleeing nations in, for instance the Middle East, Asia or Africa should receive support in their regions.
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