“I don’t have the authority to order the chains to do anything. I am not a minister to set prices. The Ministry of Agriculture is not a Ministry of Pricing. But the informal pressure to play fair with the Czech consumer is appropriate,” Výborný told Práv.
“Mr. Prime Minister rightly pointed out that we have different conditions here than those of the Bavarian consumer. It points to unfair practices that I want to eliminate. But I will speak fairly with the representatives of the chains,” he added.
The meeting is to follow up on the first meeting that Výborný held with the chains in September. According to his spokesman Vojtěch Bílý, it will also be conducted in the same format. At the meeting in September, a promise was made that sellers would adequately reflect the reduction in VAT on food from 15 to 12 percent, which will come into effect in January, in prices.
They assured the Fiala and Výborný chains that they will reflect the VAT reduction in prices
“But the price is determined by supply and demand. It’s a market thing. I want the chains to fulfill their promise that the reduced VAT on food will be reflected in the prices on January 1. This promise was made clear and no one contradicted it. We will check and demand that,” noted Výborný.
According to him, sellers should set the trade markup appropriately. “I am far from envying anyone’s profit, but the trade mark-up must not be higher than is consistent with good morals,” he remarked. “I see no reason why the Czech consumer should be disadvantaged compared to consumers elsewhere,” he added.
Anyone can contact the antimonopoly office
He also discussed food prices with the head of the antimonopoly office Petr Mlsna. He is not preparing any initiative himself, but he pointed out that any citizen can do so if he suspects that traders are adjusting prices by mutual agreement.
“Any citizen can turn to the antimonopoly office with a specific complaint. I’m not one to go around the chains and watch the prices. That is not the role of the Minister of Agriculture. I am trying to negotiate with their representatives and create pressure on them in an informal way so that they set the same conditions here as for other customers in Europe,” the minister added.
Výborný considers the activation of the law on prices, by which the state could regulate them, to be a last resort. “It’s a very controversial thing that could theoretically be used. But it is not within the competence of the Minister of Agriculture, but the Minister of Finance,” he pointed out.
Even Prime Minister Fiala discovered cheaper and better shopping in Germany
His party colleague, member of the Agriculture Committee, Pavel Bělobrádek, supported his efforts. “The Ministry of Agriculture is using all the tools at its disposal. It exerts informal pressure on farmers, food producers and sellers. Prices and trade are a matter of the Ministry of Industry and Trade in particular, you should also ask there,” he wrote to Právu.
He reminded that the Ministry of Excellence also controls the quality and compliance with the rules in the entire food vertical. “And the department’s efforts have real results. Food prices have been falling for several months and are dragging down overall inflation,” says Bělobárdek.
In October, the Czech Republic had the fourth highest inflation in Europe, at 8.3 percent. In the eurozone countries, inflation hovered around 4.3 percent. However, a year ago in October, inflation in the Czech Republic amounted to almost 18 percent.
Bendl: The manufacturers are also to blame
The member of the agricultural committee, Petr Bendl (ODS), believes that domestic producers are also behind the high food prices.
“Last year, the antimonopoly office checked the situation in food and proved that in the Czech Republic there are so-called oligopoly structures in some basic commodities, which means almost a monopoly, and if it were not for an open market and the possibility of customers choosing to buy domestic and foreign production in chains, there would be large producers food dictate prices. Then it definitely makes sense to use the antimonopoly office,” he wrote to Právu.
This week, the prime minister also drew attention to lower food prices. He went on a control purchase to Waldsassen, Germany, which is adjacent to Cheb on the German side. He bought, for example, milk, butter, bread, chocolate, ketchup, Nutella and Coca-Cola. He paid less than 20 euros, i.e. around 500 crowns. In Cheb, the same purchase subsequently cost him more than 60 crowns more.
The former Minister of Agriculture Zdeněk Nekula (KDU-ČSL) also dealt with the higher prices of food in domestic chains. His handling of the food price issues was one of the things that broke his neck politically.
Large farmers blame the government for causing higher prices by capping energy prices late.