Challenges faced by farmers discussed in Gozo meeting

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Challenges faced by farmers discussed in Gozo consultation meetingOn Wednesday, MEUSAC in conjunction with the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality, held a public consultation meeting in Gozo.

During the meeting held at the Gozo Campus of the University of Malta, participants had the opportunity to talk on various aspects of agriculture and water, particularly the challenges that farmers face, the problem of the lack of water on the islands and the future of agriculture within the context of the EU Common Agricultural Policy.

Among the points raised most often was that the European Commission applies the principle of a one-size-fits-all in its policy on agriculture and this does not help the sector especially in Gozo; Maltese islands suffering from a challenge of double insularity; increasing controls by the European Union in the sector including spraying on local products, and farmers in our country are treated like those of large countries; lack of sustainability and rising costs for farmers in our country; the lack of a future for young farmers and the great challenges of competition from products from outside the EU which are not of the same quality; difficult and bureaucratic process of applying for European funds which discourages the farmer; the need for more detailed studies on arable crops; while exports are good, the local product is not adequately promoted in the local market; aid for those that export particular products such as spices; the need for Europe to control the quality of products coming from third countries; the farmers themselves need to find ways to combine more and modernise the methods of work, such as product packaging.

Other subjects covered included the current European funding available for the sector.

Present for the meeting were the Minister for Gozo Dr Justyne Caruana and Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri.

Dr Caruana thanked the organisers for the meeting, She explained the endeavours of the Ministry towards a stronger agricultural sector in order to overcome the challenges, as well as empowering the stakeholders involved.

Minister Caruana said that Gozo will have its own rural directorate focused on Gozo to address fragmentation and strengthen the agricultural sector so that farmers and herdsmen have better assistance in applying for European funds.

She urged those present not to give up and said that while everyone admits the vulnerability of the agricultural sector, the EU would help further those working in the sector in the decisions it takes and give it the future it deserves.

Dr Caruana explained that the purpose of the CAP is that farmers in different countries have the opportunity to be treated equally. Failing this, Europe needs to see what's going wrong and address it where necessary.

Parliamentary Secretary Camilleri said that when Malta joined the European Union it opened up a free market that does not limit the products entering and leaving the country. Today the country has a national agricultural policy that was prepared with the participation of the sector itself and is addressing many of the problems mentioned at the meeting.

One of the policy objectives is to raise the level of packaging, grading and traceability of Maltese and Gozitan products, he said.

The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the efforts being made at European level to take account of the difficulties that come from the agricultural sector in a small country, reduce red tape and to facilitate the application process and for European funding schemes for the sector.

Photograph: MGOZ/George Scerri

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