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Malta to seek direct EU agricultural aid over drought

Parliamentary secretary for agriculture announces he will request direct EU aid to help Maltese farmers tackle drought 

Tim Diacono
5 March 2016, 2:03pm
Agriculture parliamentary secretary Roderick Galdes addresses a gathering of farmers. Photo: Raphael Farrugia
Agriculture parliamentary secretary Roderick Galdes addresses a gathering of farmers. Photo: Raphael Farrugia
Malta will request direct EU aid to assist its farmers through the worst winter drought that has hit the island in the past 50 years.

Agriculture parliamentary secretary Roderick Galdes told farmers during a meeting at the Ta’Qali Farmers’ Market that he is confident that the European Commission will abide by his respect.

“[EU Commissioner for Agriculture] Phil Hogan visited Malta recently and he could see with his own eyes the problems caused by the drought, as well as the poor state many rubble walls are in.

“The EU recently allocated €500 million to the milk and pork crises, and I am convinced it will react similarly to what is the worst European agriculture crisis in recent history.”

However, Galdes warned farmers that they must get used to the current drought conditions, which he said is a result of climate change.

“Malta will be hit hard by climate change in the next 30 to 40 years and measures must be taken as from now.”

He said that discussions with the Water Corporation are ongoing for drainage to be converted into second-class water that will be used to irrigate crops and replenish the water table. 

“While farmers in the south of Malta have bad experience from second-class water, I assure you that technology has improved since then.”

‘Farmers must branch into organic farming’

Galdes also urged the farmers present to upgrade and diversify their produce, particularly by branching out into organic farming.

“There is a high demand for organic produce in the market right now, and branching into organic will surely boost your profits,” he told the group.

A farmer here argued that the Maltese soil isn’t fit for an organic style of farming, to which Galdes retorted that “while it isn’t easy, I know farmers who have managed”.

“You can integrate organic farming with other styles, so as to keep sustainable,” he said. “ However, you must make an effort to introduce these concepts, as consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of what is going into their plates.”

He also insisted that farmers must “improve” the product, and instil a “sense of pride” into their work.

“The Farmers’ Cooperative Society recently launched a project, whereby they packaged, organised and graded their items. Early indications tell us that farmers can sell their produce at triple the price when they package and grade them with small details such as kilogrammes.”

Tim Diacono is a journalist at MaltaToday