Senate rejects proposal to set mandatory quotas on Czech food sold in large stores

Photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

The Senate has rejected an amendment to the Food Act that would set quotas on the sale of Czech food in retail stores. At least eight other EU countries had objected to the proposal, which they said was clearly discriminatory.

The controversial bill follows up on a Buy Czech campaign that aims to bolster the position of domestic producers in the largely foreign owned retail stores. It proposed that shops with over 400 square metres of floor space would have to offer 55 percent Czech products in selected categories, such as meat and vegetables. By 2028 the minimum quota would grow to 73 percent.

The amendment was submitted by the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD) and stanchly defended by Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman. “Let’s be a bit nationalist when it comes to Czech agriculture and our country,” he said, dismissing warnings that such a move could result in higher prices and a much smaller selection of goods.

Miroslav Toman,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

The bill passed the lower house of Parliament thanks to support from Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s ANO party, its junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (ČSSD), as well as the Communists (KSČM), which has tolerated the minority government in exchange for policy concessions.

But just a few hours after the vote, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) distanced himself from the adopted form of the law.

“I did not initiate nor support this proposal, and I consider it to be a completely unnecessary political gesture, which is contrary to the functioning of the internal market of the European Union.”

The European Commission has repeatedly warned the Czech Republic against such a law pointing out that imposing mandatory quotas would create favoured trade conditions for these products and discriminate against similar imported products from EU member states.

The bill would have set quotas for example, on eggs, honey, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, fresh and chilled beef, pork and mutton. It would also apply to rapeseed, sunflower oil, milk, cheese and cottage cheese.

While supported by the Chamber of Agriculture, the bill was opposed by the Food Chamber, the Association of Private Farmers and Confederation of Commerce and Tourism.