On January 20, 2021, the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic approved an amendment to the Food Act proposed by the Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD), which implements an unprecedented anti-market measure in the form of food sales quotas into Czech legislation.
The legal norm favors Czech producers over foreign competitors by setting minimum quotas for specific foodstuffs sold (not offered) in retail outlets with an area of more than 400 square meters. However, this amendment is a completely unnecessary state intervention in the principles of the free market and free international trade.
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These would positively impact economic rents for a narrow interest group of domestic agricultural producers, but would negatively impact the rest of the society, particularly by reducing the freedom of choice of consumers and retailers, reducing the availability of selected foods, upward pressure on prices, etc.
Arguments put forward by sponsors of the legislation can be summed up as:
“ will enable regional food producers to better establish themselves in the domestic market,  help […] maintain employment in rural areas and ultimately  reduce the carbon footprint by reducing food imports across Europe”.
The controversy surrounding the issue is evidenced not only by the heated expert debate, which has seen absurd arguments from the proponents of the regulation, but also by the declarations of eight EU countries with a negative opinion on the plan, as well as the debate on the inconsistency of the regulation with EU law.
The Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic has rejected an amendment to the Food Act proposed by a group of MPs to increase food self-sufficiency. The bill was ultimately rejected, after pressure mounted on the Prime Minister to not support this bill.
However, food self-sufficiency is an idea that never dies, and it is certain to make a comeback sooner or later. The relevant interest groups have lobbied for thirty years and are unlikely to give up. We therefore consider the issue not moot and analyze it.
This study provides a brief analysis of the text of the proposal and a description of the current situation on the Czech food market.
A Problematic Bill
The key passage of the amendment to the Food Act is the following text:
“(3) A food business operator operating a retail outlet shall ensure that the proportion of selected staple foods from the short supply chain […] sold to final consumers in each retail outlet operated by him is
(a) a minimum of 55% in calendar year 2022, […]
g) a minimum of 73% in calendar year 2028 and subsequent years.”