Business News

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In Business News this week: the Czech and Slovak electricity markets hook up; more oilseed rape is being grown in the Czech Republic than ever before; fuel prices shoot up in the last week; Czech airlines transport over one million passengers in the first quarter, and one fifth of Czechs cannot afford a ‘square meal’ every other day says the EU.

Czech and Slovak electricity markets to link up

The Slovak Trade and Industry Minister, Lubomir Jahnátek, was in Prague on Thursday to sign a deal linking the Czech and Slovak electricity markets. Mr Jahnátek’s Czech counterpart, Martin Říman, said that a linking of the markets would lead to better management of power supplies and help both countries cope with peak periods. The Czech Republic currently has the lowest electricity costs in Central Europe, and Mr Říman said that the deal would not endanger this. The common Czech-Slovak electricity market could start to operate as early as January 2009.

Amount of rapeseed grown in Czech Republic to reach record high in 2008

Hay fever sufferers watch out – the Czech Republic’s rapeseed crop is set to be bigger than ever in 2008. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported this week that an area larger than the country’s Karlovy Vary region and a major part of Prague put together has been planted with the yellow crop, the majority of which is to be used in biofuel production. Some 357,000 hectares of oilseed rape have been sown, making this nemesis of hay fever sufferers the country’s second largest crop after wheat. The Czech Republic exports about one third of its rapeseed, its biggest buyer is Germany. On the domestic front, rape oil methylester accounts for 2 percent of all the fuel burnt in Czech tanks, the government would like to raise this figure to 4.5 percent by next year.

Fuel prices shoot up

On the subject of combustibles, the press was full of news of a sharp rise in the price of fuel this week, reports which were confirmed by the Czech Statistical Office on Friday. According to the office’s data, in the course of this week alone, the price of the country’s best-selling Natural 95 petrol went up by 0.73CZK (5 US cents) to 32.21 crowns (2.02 USD) a litre. Diesel also reached a record high – costing some 33.73 CZK (2.1 USD) a litre. Forecasters predict that the cost of petrol will rise yet further into the summer months, with prices peaking at around 36 crowns (2.25 USD) in the summer holidays.

Czech airlines transport over one million passengers in the first quarter

Speaking of holidays, the Czech national airline ČSA transported 1.1 million passengers in the first three months of this year, it was revealed this week. This number is up 3 percent on the figures for this time last year. The most popular routes were said to be Moscow, Amsterdam Madrid and Brussels, with irregular flights to Cuba and La Isla Margarita also proving popular. ČSA made a profit for the first time in several years in 2007; financial results for the first quarter of 2008 are expected in June.

EU: One fifth of Czechs cannot afford a square meal

And finally, one fifth of Czechs cannot afford a square meal every other day, found a report released by the European Union on Friday. The EU classed a ‘square meal’ as one containing meat or fish, or a vegetarian equivalent. Some 17 percent of Czechs were found unable to purchase a proper meal, at least every second day, while 41 percent of Slovaks were found by the report to be underfed. Slovakia had the highest percentage of hungry citizens in the survey, which was conducted last year, when Romania and Bulgaria were not yet members of the EU.