Agriculture minister Zsolt Simon is trying to promote Slovak food products by pointing to how the importation of so many goods is depriving local producers of business and causing unemployment.
At a press conference on Friday, Simon said that the people of Slovakia are basically keeping around 15,000 employed abroad because of the volume of meat, fruit and vegetable imports to the country. He is therefore calling on people to use local producers more and encouraging them to buy at source directly from the farmers.
Simon claims that these 15,000 jobs could go to workers in Slovakia instead of places like China and Poland, which are two of the biggest food importers to Slovakia, because “all the prerequisites are in place in Slovakia” for the country to produce its own products. He says around 3,500 could be generated in fruit growing, and around 4,000 in the cultivation of vegetables, for instance.
If people were to turn to local produce more, it would also help the negative foreign trade balance in agricultural production, which Simon believes would drop from EUR 996 million to just over EUR 500 million. He says this would be achieved by giving more support to Slovak products on the market and encouraging a system of direct sales from farms.
In an extensive interview for the magazine Plus7Dni, Simon blames chiefly retail chains for the state of affairs, because of the way their distribution channels work, meaning they bring in products from all over the place. This is why Simon feels that local restaurants and hotels, for instance, should be buying the potatoes, cheeses and meat from local farmers, which also gives them stability and better knowledge of what it is they are buying and from whom.
According to recent calculations, only about 50% of products in shops are Made in Slovakia, which does not compare to the 70-80% that Simon claims is in other countries in Europe. Simon pointed out, though, that these figures are general and that some retail chains have only 16-20% of Slovak goods on their shelves.