Czechs split over mandatory quota on local food in stores

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Parliament’s upper house on Thursday overwhelmingly rejected draft legislation to reduce dependency on imports by imposing a quota of locally-produced food to be on sale in supermarkets.

Members of the Senate voted 75-0 against the bill, under which the percentage of Czech food sold in stores bigger than 400 sq. meters (4305 sq. feet) would be a minimum 55% in 2022 and rise to at least 73% in 2028.

The lower house of Parliament, which approved the controversial requirement in January, can override the Senate’s rejection by a simple majority.

The bill was drafted by the opposition populist Freedom and Direct Democracy party that pushed it through the lower house with the help from the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Andrej Babis and the opposition Communists.

Proponents of the bill argued that the coronavirus pandemic showed that it is important for the country to be self-sufficient in food production.

They said the move will also boost local agriculture. It applies to about 120 food products including pork, beef, milk, honey and vegetables produced in the Czech Republic.

Eight European Union countries and the bloc’s executive body strongly criticized the bill, saying it would break EU rules by discriminating against imported products.

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