Czech president blames Brussels for local eggs scramble

Czech president Václav Klaus lays into EU over local eggs shortage and sharp price rises

Chris Johnstone | 14.03.2012
It's not clear cut, but Czech President Klaus reckons Brussels is to blame for egg shortages and high prices

Czech President and EU critic Václav Klaus has weighed into an eggs shortage in the Czech Republic by suggesting it’s the fault of Brussels. Writing in an opinion column in the daily Lidové noviny on Wednesday, Klaus suggests the recent scramble by Czechs to lay their hands on eggs, even at exorbitant prices, should be blamed on misplaced EU rules.

“It’s a failure of the state but which?” Klaus observes. “It’s not just the state called the Czech Republic but a second, a lot more dominant, called the European Union that’s here.”

“The uncertainty over these two states makes government responsibility unclear,” the Czech head of state writes,  then suggesting that the EU, which is “permanently in the hands of the left and from which stems a permanent burdening of the market,” is the real source of the problem.

Czechs have over the last week been faced with eggs shortages in stores and prices rising to as high as Kč 65 for a box of 10. Trips by Czechs to Germany to stock up on supplies have been reported.

‘It’s not just the state called the Czech Republic but a second, a lot more dominant, called the European Union that’s here.’

Part of the shortage appears to have been caused by a government ban on the import of eggs from countries which have failed to meet new EU rules for minimum living standards for battery farm chickens, including a minimum living space for the birds. With many states still not compliant with the rules, egg imports have dried up. Poland, a major exporter to the neighboring Czech Republic, is one of the targets of the ban.

But the shortage has also highlighted the inability of Czech producers to meet local demand and, according to the head of the Agricultural Chamber, highlighted sharp practices by big stores. Chamber head Jan Veleba says local farmers are delivering eggs to stores for a maximum Kč 3.50 a piece and prices charged in stores should not exceed Kč  5.0. He says big stores are hiking up prices without adding any extra value on their part.

Klaus added that a panic reaction to the shortage also contributed to the problem, recounting that once on a study leave in the US in 1969 he was asked by an American professor why there were no eggs in Prague following a newspaper report about the shortage. Klaus admitted he was at a loss to explain that there were eggs but people preferred to hoard them in case of shortages and were apt to panic buying which meant that they were cleared out of stores although in normal circumstances there would have been plenty enough to go around.

Another newspaper report from the same era told how a Prague building had collapsed but none of the workers who were supposed to be on site was injured because they were all in the local pub having a drink, Klaus added. 

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Klaus with egg on his face

So Klaus takes another cheap shot at the EU. No surprise. But of course the real reasons for the "egg confusion" are (1) a lack of planning by the government and by business, and (2) "the inability of Czech producers to meet local demand," as pointed out in this article.  

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