In an amendment to the Food Act, the Chamber of Deputies approved SPD deputies’ proposal that food stores with an area of more than 400 square meters must sell the mandatory minimum share of specified food produced in the Czech Republic from next year. Eight EU countries warned Czechia not to introduce quotas for the percentage of Czech food in shops. According to them, this would be discrimination against foreign products. The chairman of the Association of Private Agriculture of the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Šebek, has previously described this proposal as a victory for populism.
However, the Minister of Agriculture Miroslav Toman (CSSD) called on the deputies to be a bit nationalist when it comes to Czech food. For example, when they have coffee in the House, they add German milk to it, which, according to him, proves that the law is needed.
Representatives of the Confederation of Trade and Tourism of the Czech Republic, the Chamber of Commerce of the Czech Republic, and the Confederation of Industry and Transport of the Czech Republic have previously warned deputies against the proposal to introduce quotas. However, the proposal is supported by the Agrarian Chamber of the Czech Republic.
According to them, the assortment will not decrease, and the final consumer’s price will not increase.
The quota will not apply to retail outlets up to 400 square meters and specialty outlets. The Ministry of Agriculture should determine the exact definition of a specialized store. The quotas are to apply to food that can be produced in the Czech Republic. However, in many cases, the Czech Republic is not self-sufficient, for example, cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries, or pork.
From next year, the mandatory minimum quota should be 55 percent. It is expected to grow to 73 percent in 2028 gradually. Proponents of quotas argue, for example, that the coronavirus crisis has shown that the Czech Republic should be more self-sufficient in food production that local farmers can produce at the same or lower costs than foreign ones.
The new obligation will apply to eggs, honey, cauliflower, cabbage, or garlic. It will include, for example, fresh and chilled beef, pork, and mutton. The quota will also apply to rapeseed or sunflower oil, milk, cheese, or cottage cheese.
The amendment also assumes that a fine of up to CZK 50 million will be imposed for the sale of dual quality food, interchangeable with products in other EU countries but with a different composition. However, the deputies relaxed the original government proposal to have to be a significantly different composition or properties. Exceptions will have to be justified, and the consumer will have to be informed.
Former Minister of Agriculture Petr Bendl (ODS) has criticized the ban on the sale of double-quality food. It bothers him that he blames the seller for the quality of the packaged product. According to him, the proposed fines are liquidating. “If it were used this way, we could close one small business after another,” he warned.
The deputies accepted the amendment of the three ANO deputies Jaroslav Faltýn, Josef Kott, and David Pražák, which will enable public contracting authorities to favor domestic foodstuffs in the procurement procedure. Contracting authorities will make local or regional foods from the short supply chain, for example, a condition for participation in food supply procedures. “Contracting authorities will thus be able to prefer more expensive but at the same time better quality food,” the proposers said. The benefits in the contracts will also apply to food from organic farming.