Czech stores should be obliged to sell at least 55% of local foodstuffs in 2021 and gradually increase to 85% by 2027, according to a cross-party proposal signed by Czech MPs who claim the measure should support Czech farmers.
The proposal should be discussed by the Czech parliament this week.
“If I produce things on my own, closed borders cannot endanger me,” said lawmaker Margita Balaštíková from the governing party ANO.
Balaštíková, who co-authored the proposal, said the coronavirus crisis has shown the importance of food self-sufficiency.
“If we want to protect the environment, we should decrease the carbon footprint and not transport things from one end of the world to the other,” the MP added.
The President of the Confederation of Trade and Tourism, Tomáš Prouza, strongly opposed the law.
“55 percent is a completely unrealistic number. A lot of fruits and vegetables do not grow in the Czech Republic at all and some fruits are only seasonal,” Prouza pointed out to CNN Prima News.
A similar measure has been introduced in Bulgaria requiring retailers to offer distinct exposure and sale space for domestic food products and to purchase 90% of their milk and dairy products from domestic producers.
Apart from decreeing a quota for Bulgarian goods is grocery chain stores, the government has also suspended food import of non-EU countries.
The European Commission has already notified Bulgarian authorities that the law restricts the free movement of goods and discriminates against imported products.
Restrictions in the Czech Republic will be lifted on April 20, with the opening of farmers’ markets, craft shops, and bazaars. Wedding celebrations with fewer than 10 people will also be allowed to take place.
From April 27, shops under 200 square meters in size will also be allowed to open.
The government clarified today that also shops over 200 square meters that are not located in large shopping centers will be allowed to open. They can reduce the sales area with safety tape and reach the required size.
From May 25, the outdoor areas of cafes, pubs, and restaurants will be able to open. Services including barbershops, hairdressers, pedicure and manicure facilities, spas and massage parlors, as well as museums, galleries, and zoos, will also be able open from this date.
Czechs will continue to be required to wear masks for the time being, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said. His deputy, Roman Prymula, added that now “a person with the virus infects less than one person on average” and that the epidemic is in decline, Reuters reported.
The plan will be divided into five stages. The first restrictions will be eased on April 20 with craft shops, farmers’ markets, car showrooms, and second-hand stores to be allowed to open, and more shops and events to be added in stages, according to the ministry.
By June 8, large shopping centers could be fully opened again along with events up to 50 people, said Havlicek.
If the infection is under control, then the plan will be enacted according to schedule. “There may be some shifts there, but we’d like to keep it this way,” he said.
Analysts predict a significant rise in the prices of fruits and vegetables in Czech stores.
Reasons are different: the Czech crown currency’s recent weakening, spring frosts and a shortage of workers in agriculture.
At the moment in Tesco supermarkets, bell peppers cost 80 CZK/kg, tomatoes 60 CZK/kg, and lemons 55 CZK/kg. These prices are about 30% more expensive than last year.
Prices are expected to rise also in rice, as there is a significant increase in global demand.
It is characteristic that, according to Reuters data, the price of rice has climbed to the highest levels since April 2013.
Farmers all over the world feel the lack of employees, including major European suppliers – Great Britain, Spain, France and Italy.
The numbers involved are substantial: France is short of about 200,000 workers until the end of May, while Spain has a shortfall of 70,000 to 80,000. Italy needs about 250,000 seasonal workers in the next two months, while the UK normally receives 70,000 to 80,000 over the season and Germany 300,000.
The restrictions around the coronavirus outbreak have made it impossible for thousands of migrant workers to come and harvest crops in Spanish fields.
“Farmers are forced to hire local residents and pay them a higher salary, which affects the cost of production,” said Boris Tomchiak, Finlord analyst.
Every year, thousands of people from countries like Romania, Bulgaria or Poland come to work in the fields. Many others, especially women, come from Morocco.