Retail chains still relaying largely on cheap food imports

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek

Data published by the Czech Statistics Office indicate that the choice of food imports to the Czech Republic is still directed mainly by price, with retail chains favouring competitive German, Polish and Slovak producers. Higher quality but less affordable Czech products are often left lying on the shelves.

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek
In 2013 Germany’s position as the biggest exporter of food products to the Czech Republic strengthened further following a series of scandals that resulted in a drop in Polish meat imports. The significant slump in demand for Polish meat came hard on the heels of a 2012 revelation that technical salt had been used in a number of Polish meat products which Warsaw refused to identify. Shortly after, the Czech Food Inspection Office also detected expired frozen fish products from Poland and later unlabeled horse meat from Poland appeared on the Czech market.

The rise in meat imports from Poland which, due to their favourable price, had accelerated steadily in recent years slowed down as a result. In 2013 the growth in imports of meat and meat products from Poland slowed to 3.5 percent, compared with the two-digit growth recorded in previous years when Polish meat imports increased by more than 18 percent in 2012 following a record growth of 29 percent in 2009. German and partly Czech producers filled the gap, although German meat importers had a strong advantage over domestic producers, not just because of their stronger competitiveness but also because several retail chains in the Czech Republic are German and naturally prefer suppliers from the parent country.

Despite this setback, Poland is still the second biggest exporter of food products to the Czech Republic, after Germany and Slovakia holds third place. Food imports from Poland grew by 7.5 percent to the tune of 23 billion crowns last year, compared to an 8.4 percent increase in 2012. Although Czech consumers temporarily turned their backs on Polish meat, fruit and veg imports made up for the fall-out, with the Czech Republic importing more apples, cucumbers and root vegetables. Imports of frozen vegetables nearly trebled.

On the other hand food imports from Germany rose from 12 percent in 2012 to 13.5 percent last year when they were worth 35.6 billion. Slovakia remains the third biggest exporter of food to the Czech Republic although its exports to the country fell by 11 percent last year.

The Czech Food Chamber says the policy of retail chains which generally favour low cost over quality is greatly detrimental to Czech farmers and food producers who offer higher quality at a less affordable price. While many shoppers say they appreciate the Buy Czech campaign, thanks to which Czech food labels now highlight local produce, most Czech consumers still continue to economize on food and throw the cheaper product into their shopping cart.