[WATCH] Maltese produce costs more because farmers do not get subsidies, MEP candidate says

MEP candidate Peter Agius calls for deployment of subsidies to farmers on fuel and energy

Peter Agius
Peter Agius

Maltese farmers are paying double what their Sicilian counterparts pay for red diesel for their tractors, the PN candidate Peter Agius has said.

The MEP candidate said that the majority of EU countries grant some types of subsidies to farmers, either on electricity or on fuels, no such subsidies are granted in Malta. Agius claimed the excuse is that these are “complicated” subsidies to apply in practice.

“Farmers in UE countries buy tractors with red diesel inside, specifically marked for agricultural use. For instance in Sicily this diesel costs half the price of commercial diesel, with farmers in Malta pay double the amount paid by Sicilians. This situation leaves a direct impact on the competitiveness of the Maltese and Gozitan farmers in their competition with foreign imports,” Agius said, speaking with MP Edwin Vassallo outside the Ta’ Qali Pitkali market.

“Several arable and livestock farmers are telling us how farmers in Sicily buy fuel at €0.60, whereas Maltese farmers have to pay €1.20. Hence, foreign produce has an obvious advantage on Maltese produce with the result being that 70% of fruits and vegetables sold on the local market are imported. Local farmers are facing the same struggle concerning the pricing and variety of herbicides and pesticides available on the local market. Certain herbicides and pesticides in Malta sell at double the amount of what they sell in Sicily.”

Agius, who is a spokesperson for EP presdent Antonio Tajani, said that during his informal discussions with the European Commission, the latter had confirmed that each member state has the right to grant subsidies on fuels purchased by arable and livestock farmers.

“The EC confirmed as well that the majority of EU countries grant some types of subsidies to farmers, either on electricity or on fuels. However, in Malta no such subsidies are granted with the excuse that these are ‘complicated’ to apply in practice.

“If Maltese farmers run out of business, everyone will suffer the consequences, both directly as foreign produce – fruits, vegetables and meat – will increase in price, as well as indirectly as this poses a threat on food security for Maltese and Gozitan families. It would be dangerous if Malta were to depend totally on imported food.”

The Nationalist Party has called on government to immediately launch a direct subsidy scheme on energy for arable and livestock farmers, so that they can recover their competitiveness. “This should be within the parameters of an aid scheme for farmers approved by the European Commission as state aid,” Agius said. “The Nationalist Party is insisting that we need a serious policy on agriculture, which promotes and gives value to the local produce, and at the same time strengthens the competitiveness of local farmers when faced with competition from foreign produce.”