Czech-Polish relations sour over food export suspicions
Phrases about friendship being cemented by food do not hold true of the current relations between the Czech Republic and Poland. Tensions over Polish food exports have surfaced again due to the composition and comments coming out of the new Czech government.
Polish media and food producers have accused Babiš of fuelling a media campaign against Polish imports to drive them out of the market and have warned that they will insist that their government retaliates in kind if specific barriers are put in place.
ANO leader and newly installed minister of finance, Babiš’ heads the Czech Republic’s and Slovakia’s biggest agriculture and food group, Agrofert. Products Agrofert’s 200 daughter companies includes bread, milk, butter, yogurt, meat products and chicken.
The biggest scandal blew up at the start of 2012 when it was revealed that chemically produced industrial salt had been used by a series of Polish producers in their meat products. Other scandals have concerned banned antibiotics in meat, banned acids in pickles, rat poison in wafers, and pesticide in mushrooms. Polish authorities said they were being subjected to an unfair smear campaign and last year the embassy in Prague hit back by launching a food fair to showcase the best the country can offer.
Calls made back then in Prague for improved communications with Warsaw when cases of cross border food contamination occur and now back again on the table. Czech Minister of Agriculture Marian Jurečka says that is one of the points that he will put to his Polish counterpart when they are due to meet at a food fair in Brno at the end of this month.
The ministry is, however, also committed to boosting the share of Czech foodstuffs on the local market. And with Polish sales responsible for around 16% of the Czech food consumption and growing, that ambition could curb Poles on their third biggest export market.