The Association of Farmers Markets has sent an appeal to the Government, which included detailed plans of how open-air markets could be run.
However, its plea to reopen under strict hygienic conditions has been met with stony silence, while bankruptcy looms for small, family-run businesses.
“Small farmers are already under pressure due to the closure of the HoReCa [hotels, restaurants and catering] which makes up the majority of direct sales. Closing farmers’ markets will have a further dramatic impact on small producers,” says the chairman of the Association of Farmers Markets Jiří Sedláček, who manages the Náplavka, Kubáň and Heřmaňák farmers markets in Prague.
Market operators argue that markets should be treated as essential services, on par with grocery stores and pharmacies.
“From the very beginning of the announcement of measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, we feel discriminated. While all food retailers – whether small stores or hypermarkets – are open without restrictions, farmers’ markets had to stay closed,” Sedláček told Lidovky.cz
“Producers who supply goods to the markets are harmed. The main focus of the markets is selling food, moreover outside, where, according to experts, shopping is safer than in air-conditioned stores,” he added.
Farmers who sell at markets often have multiple streams of income, but for some, the market itself is the farm’s economic backbone.
“Up to 300 family farms are selling at various Prague sites during the season. Alternatives methods such as deliveries through e-shops will not save the small operators, as the profit would be marginal and conditions exhausting.”
Market produce is likely to be “unsuitable” to be transferred to supermarkets, especially in terms of packaging and labeling requirements.