Dozens of Czechs demonstrated outside the government buildings on Wednesday to protest state forestry company, Lesy České Republiky’s, long term economic plans. The protest was masterminded by the environmental group Friends of the Earth Czech Republic. It says plans for large, long term contracts for private companies to cut timber and manage forests from next year will result in over exploitation and damage to a public resource. The plan has also been attacked by private timber companies, some saying that it favours large companies at the expense of small and mid-sided ones. The Ministry of Agriculture argues that such mega tenders will be more transparent and less liable to corruption. The government was expected to debate the plan at its regular meeting on Wednesday but eventually postponed a decision.
The Czech Agrarian Chamber has appealed to local meat processing plants not to buy cheap pork from Germany for fear of dioxin contamination. Jan Veleba, president of the Agrarian Chamber, said the dioxin scandal had acquired immense proportions and the case was clearly far more serious than it originally appeared. He slammed the Czech authorities for not double-checking Germany’s initial assurances that pork-imports to the Czech Republic were free of contamination. He said that given the fact that animal feed in Germany had been contaminated since March of 2010 it was still not clear how much contaminated meat had actually been imported and consumed in this country. The Czech Republic imports 17 tons of German pork monthly, with 85 truckloads of it being delivered every day.
Last year’s fruit harvest is reported to have been the worst in 20 years, the ctk news agency says. In spite of price rises farmers will lose tens of millions of crowns, particularly on the biggest local commodity –apples. The apples harvested last autumn are also of inferior quality and will mostly be used for processing. The majority of apples sold on the Czech market this year will thus be imported.
Prices of potatoes in the Czech Republic have skyrocketed, according to figures released by the country’s Statistical Office on Monday. Due to a poor harvest, the price of potatoes on the Czech market rose by 70 percent year-on-year. Prices of other commodities, such as tomatoes, peppers, and carrot, have also registered a steep rise. Potato growers say that poor weather conditions last year yielded a poor harvest.
Separately, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg described former Civic Democrat minister Petr Gandalovič as a hot candidate to become the Czech ambassador to the United States. The foreign minister said he expected the government to agree on a nomination that would be presented to the president in the coming days. The Czech Republic has been without an ambassador to the US for around six months. New US ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen is expected to start in the post by the end of January. This follows a two year gap in filling the vacancy. Mr. Gandalovič is a former minister for regional affairs and minister of agriculture and mayor of the northern city of Ústí. He was Czech consul general in New York between 1997 and 2002.
A Czech union has called for the government to take immediate steps to
find out the origin of foodstuffs and clearly labelled packaging. The call
from the Union for Farm Workers and Nutritionists follows criticism on
Friday that German authorities failed to fully communicate the real breadth
of the dioxin scandal. The union also demanded stepped up checks on
A spokesman for the Czech veterinary administration said that despite repeated inquiries, German vets failed to provide the Czech authorities with information about exports of dioxin-contaminated products to the Czech Republic. German officials said on Friday that 4.5 tons of contaminated meat from Germany was sold on the Czech market at the end of December. Czech authorities also banned on Friday the sale of 200,000 eggs from Germany which lacked a precise designation of origin.
Preliminary results of checks by food inspectors have found no local evidence of dioxin contaminated foodstuffs. The special checks were called after a scandal over contamination of foodstuffs by the cancer causing substance in neighbouring Germany. Local checks were targeted at pork, poultry and eggs. German authorities say there is a risk that some contaminated food made its way to the Netherlands and Britain. Slovakia has banned all German imports of meat and eggs.
Police and customs officers have just made one of their biggest hauls of illegal bootleg liquor in recent times and broken up an organized gang that was apparently functioning for several months. The discovery in the eastern city of Ostrava could well have many Czechs taking a second look at cheap Christmas spirits bought off the back of a lorry or at market stalls.
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