Small, domestic retailers in the Czech Republic have criticised their larger foreign-owned counterparts for selling below-cost, arguing the practice gives their rivals a competitive edge.

“It is an uncontrolled, discriminating process that our government has for years been turning a blind eye to,” one official from a small retailer, who wished to remain anonymous, told just-food yesterday (4 February).

The official, speaking on the sidelines of the Retail Summit 2009 in Prague, also accused one supplier, Czech soup maker Vitana, of only organising tastings with large foreign chains and never at local, independent outlets.

A spokesman for Vitana, which is owned by Norwegian food group Rieber & Søn, defended the practice. “The main yardstick for choosing the stores where we organise our tastings is addressing as efficiently as possible the customer, the size of the store being unimportant,” he said.

Local retailers could be helped through better access to financing, one delegate at the summit argued.

“In France and Germany, for instance, small shop owners get much lower interest rates on credit,” Jozef Orgonás, general secretary of the Slovak Retail Association, said.