Għid Tiegħek Dwar l-Ewropa – The Future of Farming

Following the launch of the Citizens’ Consultations in Malta on July 31, 2018, MEUSAC organised the second of a series of themed consultations with EU citizens on the future of farming. The consultation focused on the primary issues which farmers face on a daily basis, access to EU funds for farmers, the importance of promoting local products, the scarcity of water, the use of pesticides and fertilisers, as well as the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

In his introduction, Head of MEUSAC, Dr Vanni Xuereb, explained that the idea behind the European Citizens’ Consultations is about reaching citizens and giving them an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns.

The Minister for European Affairs and Equality, Dr Helena Dalli, delivered the opening address in which she noted the importance of the European Citizens’ Consultations. She said that the main aim of this process was not to reach those citizens who feel they are part of the EU and who frequently participate in such events, but to reach those citizens who feel marginalised and who do not necessarily feel the benefits of Malta’s EU membership.  Dr Dalli emphasised the importance of agriculture in Maltese society, and encouraged attendees to speak their mind during the consultation.

Citizens raised various issues, with many farmers speaking out about obstacles they face when dealing with EU Funds, as well as various issues related to pesticides and fertilisers. On EU Funds, many farmers feel that the entire process is too complicated. They also said that delays in the process, such as waiting time for funds to be released to farmers and for projects to be approved, can have detrimental effects on farming productivity and efficiency. The agricultural industry is dependent on various factors, and many cannot afford long delays when applying for EU Funding.

They also noted the use of pesticides and fertilisers in Malta, and said that more work is needed to regulate their use. Suggestions were made to strengthen controls over who can buy pesticides and fertilisers, depending on their needs and capacity. It was also suggested that the Nitrates Directive, which was established in 1991, be renewed as soon as possible.

Other comments focused on the lack of young farmers in the sector, the need for a specific strategy focusing on Maltese farming at the EU level, as well as the promotion of local produce and the need to continue to improve upon Maltese products.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights, Clint Camilleri, delivered a closing address, where he noted that the Maltese Government was working on a National Agricultural Policy. He also emphasised the need to make local products as attractive as imported ones, particularly through means of grading and ways of defining the quality of various products. He noted that Malta is an interesting case, since the summers can severely impact agricultural productivity, and that a one size fits all approach is not suitable for Malta.

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