Farming revenues for 2009 are expected to drop by 20 billion crowns, the Agricultural Association of the Czech Republic has reported. In spite of optimistic economic forecasts made during the summer, the year will thus be the first to end in a loss for Czech farmers since the country’s accession to the European Union in 2004. The major factor is the sharply reduced prices of milk and grains, which alone account for more than a 75% of the dive. The Czech Agrarian Chamber originally forecast a two-billion-crown profit for Czech farmers; the chamber’s chairman Jan Veleba now says he did not want to insinuate a loss prematurely to avoid banks’ toughening up loan conditions for farmers. In 2008 Czech agriculture recorded profits of 9.7 billion crowns.
Two of the Czech Republic’s biggest wine festivals get underway on Friday. The Pálava Festival in the Moravian town of Mikulov and the Historic Wine Festival in the nearby Znojmo are expected to attract around 100,000 people between them over the weekend. The Mikulov festival has been running since 1947, while the Znojmo event began two decades later.
Some Czech farmers and agriculture firms are on the verge of collapse due
to the economic crisis and low market prices of milk and wheat, according
to a survey by the ČTK news agency released on Sunday. Both small farmers
and larger companies often owe money to their suppliers and are unable to
pay their credits. Fruit growers report that their revenues will be lower
by tens of millions of crowns this year, and financial difficulties have
also hit Czech wine makers.
Market prices of wheat are about fifty percent lower than last year and farmers keep most of this year’s harvest in the barns. Agriculture firms also have to sell milk at prices lower than production costs.
The 2009 harvest in the Czech Republic is expected to be about 10% lower than the previous year, the minister of agriculture, Jakub Šebesta, announced Saturday. With the cereals and corn harvest almost in, the ministry expects a total volume of 7.4 million tonnes, with 5.3 sufficient to cover domestic demand.
The Czech Agrarian Chamber says Czech agricultural profits will reach around 2 billion crowns (around USD 112 million) compared to 9.7 billion crowns (USD 540 million) last year. The head of the Agrarian Chamber, Jan Veleba, said on Sunday the agricultural sector might post a loss of about 4 billion crowns next year – the first time since joining the EU – in case it does not receive any state subsidies. Agriculture Minister Jakub Šebesta says the ministry will not curb farming subsidies this year, however, next year’s state budget may not allow for full payment.
Sales of the partially fermented grape juice known as burčák have begun at wine bars and roadside stands in south Moravia. However, some experts say much of the burčák being sold is not the genuine article as it may have been made from imported grapes. According to Czech regulations, the name burčák can only be used when the drink is made from grapes grown in this country.
Burčák season is coming – but not, say experts, just yet. The end of August sees a number of festivals kick off around the country in honour of the sweet, deceptively fruit-juice-like, alcoholic drink. But with Czech grapes still to ripen properly, experts are warning that the burčák currently available is of dubious origin and a pale imitation of the real deal. I spoke to the head of the National Wine Centre in Valtice, Pavel Krška, to ask what made an authentic burčák:
In the height of summer, no invitation is more common in the Czech Republic than “Let’s grab a beer”. Although business is down, most evening pubs still get their share of clientele enjoying the golden beverage. Now though, a venue in the eastern town of Olomouc has taken things a step further, not just allowing customers to drink but also to learn a thing or two about brewing.
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