Farmers to protest against small share of Czech products in supermarkets

The Czech Agrarian Chamber has announced it will stage protests next month against supermarket chains stocking the fewest Czech food products on their shelves. Unhappy about growing imports of foodstuffs, the Agrarian Chamber first plans to compare the percentage of Czech-made products in different supermarket chains and then select two with the lowest share. In late June, discontented farmers will build roadblocks outside the supermarkets to halt the delivery of goods. But that part of their plan has met with mixed reactions.

President Vaclav Klaus and Jan Veleba, photo: CTK
Czech farmers have long felt under threat from increasing food imports. Just two months ago, a couple of hundred farmers gathered at the Austrian border to protest against cheap imports of Austrian pork. On Monday President Vaclav Klaus invited the head of the Czech Agrarian Chamber, Jan Veleba, for a meeting at Prague Castle, and according to Mr Veleba, President Klaus expressed support for the farmers' cause.

"We have explained to the President our view, stressing that we are not revolutionaries. We have explained to him why things have come this far. The planned event will target two supermarket chains but it should also be a hint to politicians to finally do something about the situation."

President Klaus, for instance, agrees with the Agrarian Chamber that Czech-made products should be clearly labelled to help consumers distinguish between domestic and imported goods. According to Jan Veleba, President Klaus did not disapprove with the form of the farmers' planned protests unlike Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovic who says blockades will not solve the problem.

"I definitely agree that the Agrarian Chamber, along with farmers and producers should inform consumers extensively about the advantages of Czech-made products: that they are just as good, that they have been produced in this country, so we can identify precisely the origin of the product. On the other hand, blockades don't solve the situation."

The Agrarian Chamber would like to teach the Czech public to demand and give priority to Czech products but also to make politicians draw some rules for supermarket chains regarding imported food products. Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovic says that such regulation is impossible on the European single market. However, he has promised that the government will inform the lower house of Parliament by the end of October on how it plans to tackle the issue.