Organic products still a luxury for most Czechs

Photo: Kristýna Maková

Organic food is still a luxury for most Czechs and although forty percent of people say they buy organic food items occasionally, organic products still make up only one percent of overall food sales. Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka blames the high mark-ups that supermarkets slap on “bio” products as they are known in the Czech Republic.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
Although organic farming has grown from just two farms in 1989 to around 4,000 today, organic farmers in this country are still fighting for their place in the sun. While in neighbouring Austria organic produce makes up approximately five percent of all produce sold on the market, in the Czech Republic it is still only around one percent. Although most supermarkets now sport a small select line of organic produce the price tag on the goods puts most shoppers off. “Bio” food is still presented as something exclusive and the profit margins supermarkets slap on them clearly reflect this. While in Germany or Austria organic food mark-ups make up from 10 to 30 percent of the price in the Czech Republic they can be 100 percent or more. One organic farmer complained to Czech Television that the game salami he sells for 100 crowns had been sold for three times as much by the supermarket chains he delivered it to. Consequently he is now trying to sell his own produce.

Sixty percent of Czechs who buy organic produce therefore head for a farmers market or have their own organic farmer somewhere in the vicinity. Increasingly there are also mobile phone applications which are able to locate the closest organic farm with information about what it offers or even the closest farm which has the particular product you are looking for.

A fifth of organic goods sold on the market are dairy products, second in line are fruit and vegs and third meat products which can be quite expensive. A third of consumers say they buy organic because the products taste better and are 100 percent fresh, approximately the same number of respondents said they appreciated the fact that they are pesticide-free and therefore healthier and 11 percent of respondents said they liked buying from a known and trusted source and appreciated that they could support a local farmer in this manner. The vast majority of people who do not buy organic or only very rarely said the main reason was the high price of goods which they could ill afford.

Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka says the way out of this bind is for consumers themselves to buy straight from organic farms or over the internet where possible, but he admits that it will be a long time before the Czech Republic can catch up with Germany or Austria in the range and price of organic food on offer. The ministry’s autumn campaign in support of organic farming failed to make a significant difference.