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President Zeman criticises profit margins of chain stores

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Olomouc, North Moravia, Nov 8 (CTK) – Food chain stores in the Czech Republic should be regulated because they have too high margins in case of some items at the expense of Czech food producers, President Milos Zeman said during the visit he paid to the Olma dairy within his tour of the Olomouc Region on Wednesday.

“Let’s try to regulate chain stores and let’s try to create a national chain store with adequate margins like other countries have,” he said on the first day of his three-day tour.

Zeman said adequate margins would help the Czech Republic be more self-sufficient in many types of food and agricultural commodities that can be produced in the country.

The path towards higher self-sufficiency are higher wholesale prices that chain stores pay to food producers, but the prices in stores should not go up at the same time – this should be done at the expense of chain stores, not at the expense of customers, he said.

Zeman has been criticising chain stores for a long time. In 2015, he said retail chain stores with profit margins of up to 63 percent were the biggest barrier to the development of the Czech food production sector. In 2013, Zeman proposed that Czech food producers and farmers create their own food chain store.

The management of the Olma dairy complained to Zeman of having problems with yogurt sales due to the anti-Russian sanctions.

Zeman, who has been challenging the sanctions that the West imposed on Russia over its military interference in Ukraine for a long time, promised to mention this during his official visit to Russia later this month. He said the Madeta dairy and other Czech firms had similar problems.

Olma is part of the Agrofert holding that was owned by possible next prime minister Andrej Babis (ANO). Earlier this year, then finance minister Babis had to transfer Agrofert to trust funds because of a new law on conflict of interest.

At his meeting with Olma employees, Zeman apologised for walking with a limp. He said he hurt his knee in the morning and walked with support from his bodyguards due to it.

Zeman, 73, made an impression of suffering from health troubles at a number of public events of late. He also lost weight apparently. A local politician claimed on Tuesday that Zeman suffered from cancer and that his illness was terminal. The Presidential Office dismissed this and sued the politician.

Zeman will be defending his post in the direct presidential election in January and he is more popular than any of his rivals, but many people strongly dislike him, opinion polls show.

In Lipnik nad Becvou, northern Moravia, which was another stop of the presidential tour of the Olomouc Region on Wednesday, Zeman was confronted by former interior minister Tomas Hradilek who has been on hunger strike since November 1 in protest against Zeman’s repeated candidacy for president.

Hradilek, who was a dissident under the Czechoslovak communist regime, writes that Zeman deeply disappointed him by giving up effort at cultivating and uniting Czech society. He calls on Zeman to withdraw his candidacy.

In reaction, Zeman said on Wednesday his presidential bid was supported by 113,000 people.

This has been Zeman’s fifth official visit to the Olomouc Region since his presidential inauguration in early 2013. Zeman’s opponents claim that the tours around the country are part of his presidential campaign, but Zeman rejects this view. He says he is waging no campaign at all.

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