Food chain safety checks on agricultural products from Ukraine are ongoing, with 156 food businesses having been inspected so far, the Ministry of Agriculture announced in a statement on Wednesday. Agriculture Minister István Nagy stressed that the strict controls on cereals arriving in Hungary from Ukraine are necessary to protect the interests of Hungarian farmers.
According to the minister, the European Union continues to stand idly by while Ukrainian grain destined for North Africa and the Middle East through the Solidarity Corridor is stuck in Europe, causing serious market disruptions. Ukrainian farmers are producing this grain at low production costs, with production practices not used in the EU, and it is entering the region at depressed prices. It is for this reason that Ukrainian grain is subject to strict quality and food chain safety controls in Hungary, István Nagy stressed in the statement.
He noted that
Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria had already appealed to the European Commission to intervene in order to curb the influx of grain imports from Ukraine, but the Commission has not yet proposed any concrete measures to tackle the situation.
The European Commission would make farmers in Central Europe pay the price for Ukrainian grain exports instead of a single burden-sharing arrangement with member states, Nagy stated. He added that honey and poultry arriving from Ukraine at depressed prices also squeeze Hungarian products out of its traditional export markets. As a result, Hungary, together with several member states, is urging Brussels to ensure that honey products are clearly labeled with a designation of origin, because
in Europe, extremely cheap honey products from third countries have flooded the market, crowding out high-quality Hungarian honey.
The minister also said that checks coordinated by the National Food Chain Safety Office are ongoing. Hungarian businesses using Ukrainian grain have a basic direct legal responsibility to use only raw materials that comply with EU and domestic standards.
The case of Ukrainian grain has been at the center of talks for many months. Since exporting grain out of Ukraine has faced serious obstacles last year due to the war, millions of tons have remained inside the country. The problem was even more acute in light of the fact that African countries could not get their grain from Ukraine and a food crisis was looming.
Hungary stepped in quite early, with the Agriculture Minister saying last July that Hungary is prepared to cooperate closely in helping to expand efforts to free grain that is stuck in Ukraine. For example, a new railway terminal was inaugurated last year in Fényeslitke near the Ukrainian border, which will play a significant role in ensuring the continuity of Ukrainian grain exports.
Meanwhile, a deal was negotiated between Ukraine and Russia with Turkey and the United Nations’ mediation last summer; the two parties agreed to resume Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea, almost immediately easing the situation. However, the danger of food crisis is still looming, with Africa being greatly affected. Hungary has already offered to help, with Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announcing in January that Hungary will finance the shipment of 10,000 tons of grain to Africa worth some $3.5 million from Ukraine, as part of efforts to solve the global food crisis.
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