Seven people have been charged in connection with the so-called methanol affairs in which almost 50 people died in the Czech Republic and neighbouring countries after drinking contaminated bootleg alcohol. The fresh charges stem from the Olomouc State Attorney’s Office and focus on a group connected with the Drak spirits company which allegedly sold he contaminated spirits. The accused face charges of being members of an organized criminal group and dodging tax. Eight people were found guilty in the core methanol court case in December last year. The scandal erupted in 2012.
The black market for alcohol sales has been squeezed sharply since government measures following the methanol scandal, according to the Czech Association of Spirits Producers and Importers. It estimates that back market sales represented around 12 percent of total turnover, down from around a third before 2012 and the eruption of the methanol spirits scandal. At least 48 people died after drinking bootleg spirits tainted with methanol. The government tightened its rules for the sales of spirits as a result. The association says further moves, such as making black market sales a criminal offense and not just subject to a fine, could still be taken.
Czech universities, institutes, and the private sector are involved in a four year project to find a strain of wheat which will better withstand drought conditions and high temperatures. The Mendel University in Brno, Palacký University Olomouc and Crop Research Institute outside Prague have teamed up with the Znojmo-based company RAGT for the research. Most of the work will be focused on trying to develop strains with better developed root systems. The options for European wheat are limited as strains must also frequently deal with late frosts. The research is taking place with an eye to expected climate change and increasingly variable weather conditions.
The rate of Czech inflation speeded up in August to 0.6 percent year-on-year compared with 0.5 percent in July. Higher prices for alcohol and tobacco were among the main factors fuelling the rise. A slowdown in the drop in food prices, which has been a feature of recent months, and higher charges for utilities also contributed. The Czech National Bank has a long term inflation target of 2.0 percent which it has long struggled to look like achieving. Some analysts, however, see a chance that the inflation rate might rise to beyond 1.0 percent by the end of the year.
Czech company Gold of Prague is taking some very ancient Czech beer brewing know how and transporting it lock, stock, and barrel, to South Korea. The beer market there might be in its infancy, but a relaxation of restrictions has sparked a massive array of new beers and micro-breweries. The Czech company is in the throes of two projects with micro-breweries outside the capital, Seoul, and would also like to develop there as well if the early promising signs continue.
Retail sales in the Czech Republic rose 1.6 percent in July compared with the same month last year, according to the Czech Statistical Office. Adjusted for the number of working days, the increase in spending comes to 5.1 percent. Sales were especially strong in non-food goods, where they climbed by around 8 percent. Growth in food sales was just 2.1 percent. The trend of increasing sales through mail order or via the Internet continues, with those sales up by nearly 20 percent.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš is planning to submit a plan to reduce value-added tax on draught beer to the coalition for the second time at a meeting on Wednesday. Mr. Babiš wants draught beer to be moved from the 21-percent to the 15-percent VAT band. When he put forward the same proposal in January he said it would help pubs hit by increased costs stemming for an electronic cash-register system connected to a tax authority database. Coalition partners the Social Democrats responded with a proposal to cut VAT on essential foodstuffs. The right-wing opposition said Mr. Babiš’s plan amounted to populism and pre-election campaigning.
The Senate has approved a proposed amendment to the law which would change the present zero alcohol tolerance for cyclists in the Czech Republic to a small amount of alcohol permitted. The proposal is based on the current norm in Austria which allows a blood alcohol level of up to 0.8 milliliters, the second most benevolent norm in Europe after Germany. This roughly corresponds to two or three beers or two glasses of wine. The proposed amendment was drafted on the grounds of a petition from close to 5,000 bikers. It will now be debated in the lower house. The Transport Ministry is vehemently opposed to the proposed change on the grounds that it would significantly decrease road safety.
According to Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka, less than 50 percent of red meat in domestic supermarkets is of Czech origin. In the future, he made has clear, he will be aiming for the numbers to improve. One good sign? Chains based in the Czech Republic are not against taking more from local producers.
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