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Czech parliament votes to reject quota on imported food in supermarkets

Czech parliament votes to reject quota on imported food in supermarkets
Photo: AP Photo/Petr David Josek

Czech lawmakers have rejected plans to require supermarkets to sell mainly domestically produced food, removing the measure from a bill on food quality to avoid clashes with the European Commission over EU single market rules, reports European Supermarket Magazine.

Parliament’s lower house approved a Senate version of a Food Act bill that included an amendment abolishing quotas, which had been placed in the legislation when lawmakers first voted in January. The overall bill is aimed at preventing double standards in food, an issue that some formerly communist eastern members of the European Union have pursued for years, contending that inferior food products unwanted by consumers in richer Western EU states were being sold in poorer Eastern markets.

Most lawmakers voted to remove the quotas on Tuesday after backlash from other European Union members. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis also voiced opposition after its surprise passage in January. 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.

The quotas would have forced shops larger than 400 square metres to offer at least 55% of items that can be locally produced, like fruit, vegetables, milk or meat. The quotas’ rejection was welcomed by business groups like the Czech Confederation of Commerce, which had argued it would work against competitiveness in shops.

Opponents also argued they would give windfall profits to large domestic producers, raise prices, cause shortages and violate EU internal market rules, which could lead to sanctions. The Commission said in January local restrictions were counterproductive to the free movement of goods that ensures food security.

 

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Strong apple, pear crops forecast for Czech Republic

Apples are among the most popular fruit consumed in the Czech Republic and are an important part of the Czech diet. However, the market for fresh apples in the Czech Republic has generally been declining due to stronger interest in new fruits, rising consumer purchasing power and a wider range of fruit choices in stores.

Despite an extremely hot and dry summer, the Czech apple and pear crops remain strong, estimated at 140,660 and 9,372 tons respectively, according to a USDA Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report.

However, due to the high age of fruit trees and lack of capital to renew orchards, the area for and number of fruit trees are declining, it says.

Harvested areas
MY2014: apples 8,721 ha, pears 704 ha
MY2015: apples 7,624 ha, pears 681 ha

Commercial production
Nevertheless, while last year Czech growers harvested 130,902 tons of apples and 3,758 tons of pears, this year commercial production should rise to 140,660 tons of apples and 9,372 tons of pears, based on figures from the Central Institute for Supervising and Testing in Agriculture, GAIN said.

Non-commercial production
Non-commercial production is thought to account for more than a third of total apple production and more than a quarter of pear production in the Czech Republic. That estimate is based on figures from the Czech Statistical Office’s annual report on production of selected crops, which includes household estimates, which places Czech apple production in 2014 (including non-commercial production) at 207,990 tons, and pear production at 12,351 tons.

Fresh Domestic Consumption
Apples are among the most popular fruit consumed in the Czech Republic and are an important part of the Czech diet. However, the market for fresh apples in the Czech Republic has generally been declining due to stronger interest in new fruits, rising consumer purchasing power and a wider range of fruit choices in stores. “Young people in the urban areas prefer new and exotic fruits such as kiwi, pineapple, kumquat, and passion fruit,” GAIN said.
Euromonitor lists the most popular locally-grown varieties as Golden Delicious, Idared, Jonagold, Gala, Discovery, Spartan, James Grieve, and Sampion. Among the most popular imported varieties are Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Gala from Italy, and Paula Red and Royal Gala from Slovakia and Austria. “Gala organic apples from Italy are quite popular among organic varieties.”

Processing
According to Euromonitor, in 2013 retail accounted for 36.6% of domestic consumption, while food processing was the main driver of total consumption.
Prices for processing apples are about 60-75% lower.

Source: Fresh Deciduous Fruit Annual 2015: Czech Republic, Global Agricultural Information Network GAIN

Image of the Czech capital, Prague, at night: by lawyergaoge (used under Creative Commons CC0 licence)