Czechs reject mandatory quotas on local food in stores

People walk out of a grocery store in Ceska Lipa, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 18, 2021. The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, rejected legislation that requires supermarkets carry a minimum share of local food, a move to be less dependent on imports. In Thursday's 75-0 vote, the Senators refused to approve the bill to have the share of Czech food in stores that are bigger than 400 sq. meters (4305 sq. feet) at least 55% in 2022 and increase to at least 73% in 2028. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) (Petr David Josek, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

PRAGUE – Czech lawmakers have rejected a proposed bill to reduce dependency on food imports by imposing a quota of locally-produced food to be sold in supermarkets.

Lawmakers in the upper house, or the Senate, dismissed the bill last month. It would have required that the percentage of Czech food sold in stores bigger than 400 sq. meters would be a minimum 55% in 2022 and rise to at least 73% in 2028.

The lower house had originally approved the controversial requirement in January but on Tuesday accepted the upper house's veto.

The bill was drafted by the opposition populist Freedom and Direct Democracy party, which had 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 pandemic showed it's important for the country to be self-sufficient in food production and the move would boost local agriculture, applying to 120 foods, including pork, beef, milk, honey and vegetables produced in the Czech Republic.

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