Czech lower house adopts quota on Czech food in shops

The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, passed an amendment to the food law, approving a proposal under which grocery stores with an area of more than 400 square metres will be required to sell a mandatory minimum share of food products made in the Czech Republic as of next year.

Eight EU countries have expressed objections to Czechia introducing a quota on the share of Czech food products in shops, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) wrote.

In a letter addressed to Chamber of Deputies' agricultural committee chairman Jaroslav Faltynek, representatives of Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Poland and Spain said the quota might constitute discrimination against foreign products, which is inadmissible in the EU, the daily wrote.

A warning against the introduction of the quota had earlier been expressed also by the Confederation of Commerce and Tourism (SOCR), the Chamber of Commerce and the Confederation of Industry. The quota is also criticised by the Food Chamber and the Association of Winemakers.

Food Chamber head Dana Vecerova said she feared some products that could not be labeled as Czech goods under the existing definitions would disappear from shops. The Agrarian Chamber, on the other hand, supports the quotas. It says it will not reduce the assortment of products sold and will not increase prices for end consumers. According to the Winemakers' Association, the law will have a liquidating effect on the domestic wine market, as Czechia is not self-sufficient in the production of grapes.

Vineyards in Moravia and Bohemia cover only one third of domestic consumption at the most, so the required amount of wine cannot be supplied to shops solely from domestic production, association head Ondrej Beranek said. The quota will not apply to smaller shops and specialised stores. The exact definition of a specialised shop should be determined by the Agriculture Ministry. The mandatory minimum quota is to be 55 percent next year and should grow gradually up to 73 percent in 2028.

The quotas are intended to cover to concern food that can be produced in the Czech Republic. However, the Czech Republic is not self-sufficient in many products, such as cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries and pork. Quota advocates argue that the coronavirus crisis has shown that it is desirable for Czechia to be more self-sufficient in the production of foodstuffs that local farmers are able to produce at the same cost as foreign farmers or even lower.

The new duty will apply, for instance, to eggs, honey, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, beef, pork, lamb, rapeseed and sunflower oil, milk, cheese and cottage cheese.

The amendment passed by the Chamber of Deputies also bans the sale of dual quality food products, or products with similar or identical packaging but different composition, under the threat of a fine of up to Kc50m.

The lower house nevertheless moderated the original government proposal by applying the ban only to products whose composition or characteristics are different in a substantial way. Exceptions should be possible but will have to be justified and consumers will have to be informed about them. The dual quality food ban was earlier criticised by former agriculture minister Petr Bendl, who said it put responsibility for the quality of packaged products on retailers.

The lower house also passed a proposal under which public contracting authorities will be able to put domestic food products at advantage in procurement proceedings. They will be able to stipulate the supply of local or regional products as a condition for participation in a tender for food supplies. "Public contracting authorities will thus be able to prefer more expensive but higher quality food," the bill says.

Source: ČTK

section Aktuálně