Czech lawmakers have rejected a proposed bill to reduce dependency on food imports by imposing a quota of locally-produced food to be sold in supermarkets.
Lawmakers in the upper house, or the Senate, dismissed the bill last month. It would have required that the percentage of Czech food sold in stores bigger than 400 sq. meters would be a minimum of 55% in 2022 and rise to at least 73% in 2028.
The lower house had originally approved the controversial requirement in January but on Tuesday accepted the upper house’s veto.
The bill was drafted by the opposition populist Freedom and Direct Democracy party, which had pushed it through the lower house with the help from the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Andrej Babis and the opposition Communists.
One of the Czech Republic’s largest food producers is Agrofert, a conglomerate that includes farming, chemicals, food processing, and media firms that was owned by Babis until he placed it into trust funds in 2017.
Proponents of the bill argued that the pandemic showed it’s important for the country to be self-sufficient in food production and the move would boost local agriculture, applying to 120 foods, including pork, beef, milk, honey, and vegetables produced in the Czech Republic.
But eight other European Union countries and the bloc´s executive body strongly criticized the bill, saying it would break EU rules by discriminating against imported products.
The quotas’ rejection was welcomed by business groups like the Czech Confederation of Commerce, which had argued it would work against competitiveness in shops.
The Commission said in January local restrictions were counterproductive to the free movement of goods that ensures food security.