[WATCH] PN wants fund for farmers who risk losing agricultural land

PN says that these proposals will help address the current agricultral land crisis

From Left to Right: PN MP Edwin Vassallo, PN Chief spokesperson Peter Agius and PN candidate Rebecca Cilia
From Left to Right: PN MP Edwin Vassallo, PN Chief spokesperson Peter Agius and PN candidate Rebecca Cilia

The Nationalist Party is proposing schemes that will provide financial aid and bank guarantees to help farmers cover the elevated costs of agricultural leases and become land owners.

Peter Agius, chief PN spokesperson, said that Malta’s agricultural land and Maltese produce is currently in a state of crisis.

He said tonnes of Maltese produce are sold every day, and if land keeps being taken away from farmers, the whole country's food supply will suffer.

READ MORE: A coalition of farming organisations called on the government to find an immediate solution regarding the leasing of agricultural land or face an "exodus of farmers".

The PN is proposing a scheme, whereby active farmers can become owners of the land they till, through interest free loans and bank guarantees. Agius said that the scheme will be open to young people who want to become farmers as well.

According to Agius, a PN government will be also launching a scheme to offer direct financial help to farmers that can't afford their elevated agrticultural lease. This scheme could include up to 70% of the price of the lease, for farmers who produce vegetables and fruit for the local market.

This scheme will be also launched in conjuction with subsidies under the European Rural Programme, that encourage biodiversity in the Maltese countryside. All the schemes will be completely voluntary.

The third proposal is to speed up the regularisation process for the government agricultural leases, as currently there is a long list of pending cases, said Agius. The proposal would see the introdcution of an ad hoc administrative board specifically for such cases.

PN MP Edwin Vassallo said that most of the farmers are worried that they will be losing their land and that the Labour government has been incompetent and disinterested in solving this “crisis”.

He added that the right balance has to be reached between the rights of the land owners and the rights of the farmers. Vassallo added that  the rights of the Maltese consumer for access to fresh produce cannot be breached.

PN candidate Rebecca Cilia emphasised that food, especially local food, is vital for the Maltese family values, and therefore local produce is essential for the community. She said that the income of the farmers has to be sustained.

MaltaToday asked Agius whether apart from the proposal to seek Brussels clearance for €40 million state fund to help importers, the PN  plans to promote the local produce market more.

Agius said that exports and imports are vital due to the insularity of the Maltese islands and by joining the EU, a huge market became accessible to the Maltese. He mentioned that export costs for the Maltese producer are not competitive with the Sicilian ones and said that the PN enacted those proposal to make up for the handicaps of our market.