Underpriced and over here: Czech egg producers complain about imports

Marian Jurečka, photo: CTK

The Czech Ministry of Agriculture has highlighted the plight of Czech egg producers faced with increased imports of cheap foreign imports with the importers accused of sometime breaking the rules.

Marian Jurečka,  photo: CTK
After milk and pork producers it now seems that Czech egg producers are now complaining that competitive circumstances are so bad that they cannot break even and make a living. The eggs story is a familiar one of cheap, and sometimes unfair, imports undermining local firms and, as far as Czech food production goes, a familiar actor has been case in the role of villain: Poland. But some of the big supermarkets also appear to have supporting roles as the bad guys.

In a press conference staged Wednesday, Minister of Agriculture Marian Jurečka pointed out that although the Czech Republic produces around 2 billion eggs a year – just around enough to meet local demand – it is importing more and more eggs which find their way onto supermarket shelves. And he named names, accusing supermarket chains Ahold and Kaufland of being among the biggest sellers of imported eggs.

At the same time, local producers say they are being priced off those same shelves because of the cheap imports. Some Czech producers say those imported eggs are being sold at less than production costs. They have tales of eggs being sold for 0.80 crowns a piece while the price fetched in supermarkets is around four times higher. Earlier last year the prices paid to egg farmers was around twice as much at around 1.90 crowns per egg.

Egg imports are estimated last year to have reached around 800 million, around 120 million more than in the previous year. Producers say their situation really began to deteriorate from the Autumn of last year.

The local producers claim that the cheap imports are possible because they cut corners on some health and hygiene norms applied locally.

The ministry backs up those claims, saying that many of the imports are not labelled property giving details about their country of origin and also the type of production methods used. The ministry says it was forced to return around 160,000 eggs to Poland in June because these markings were absent. This followed hard on the heels of problems with around half a million Polish eggs a month earlier.

It warns as well that many eggs purporting to be Czech may in fact be foreign imports with deceiving or downright false markings on boxes and the eggs themselves. The ministry calls for stepped up checks from consumers.