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The results of food price controls by the Czech Trade Inspection (ČOI) and the State Agricultural and Food Inspection (SZPI) are worse than expected. Minister of Agriculture Zdeněk Nekula (KDU-ČSL) stated this on Twitter during the meeting of the interdepartmental commission on high food prices. He then said at the press conference that there is a massive violation of food law as well as the law on consumer protection.
According to him, the inspections should continue. The authorities have carried out over 250 joint inspections in the past two weeks. According to the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ), the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by 23.5 percent year-on-year in March.
Nekula said that he would like it if the chains, instead of selling often overpriced goods, focused on fulfilling the basic conditions of sale. According to him, they should ensure compliance with all hygiene principles and the correct declaration of prices.
The head of the legal department of the ČOI, Vlastimil Turza, said that out of 417 inspections carried out by the office together with SZPI or independently, violations of the law were found in 91 cases. Most often, it related to the honesty of sales, when merchants charged a higher price for goods than was on the price tag. According to him, the checks also found violations of the rules for discount events, when the chains violated the obligation to indicate the lowest price for the last 30 days.
The interdepartmental group met for the second time at the ministry on Thursday. Nekula had earlier said food prices indicated traders were abusing their market position. Trade representatives reject accusations of disproportionate price growth, according to them, farmers and food producers are primarily responsible for it.
According to Nekula, intensive controls lead to pressure on prices. As an example, he stated that according to a weekly report in mid-March, the average price of eggs fell by tens of pennies compared to the previous period, while earlier, according to him, there were opinions that eggs would cost up to ten CZK on Easter.
He added that the price of butter per cube has been reduced from CZK 53.40 to CZK 42 since December 2022. “These days, you can buy a cube of butter for less than CZK 30 in discount events,” he said. According to Nekula, the prices of non-seasonal goods are also falling, which confirms that there is room for price reductions on the market. “Some tried to raise prices to the maximum and test their pain threshold,” he added.
The non-spherical goal is to achieve a healthy competitive environment. He also reiterated this week that the government does not want to disrupt the market in any way, for example by setting maximum prices.
The working group was established by agreement of the government under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture. It also includes representatives of the Ministry of Finance and Trade, the National Economic Council of the Government (NERV) and representatives of the Government Office. One of the advisors of Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) is also a member.
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