Sant’s warning on CAP: without €3 million support Maltese farmers could face collapse

Sant votes against new CAP strategy and warns against erosion of Maltese agricultural sector • Peter Agius: government not coorindating national effort inside EP

Buyers at the Ta’ Qali farmers’ market. Alfred Sant says the industry needs at least €3 million in annual support to stay open
Buyers at the Ta’ Qali farmers’ market. Alfred Sant says the industry needs at least €3 million in annual support to stay open

Labour MEP Alfred Sant has voted against the EU Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan, saying it was not adapted to Malta’s particular agricultural landscape. 

MEPs on Friday adopted their position on the post-2022 EU farm policy reform to start negotiating with EU ministers. They endorsed a policy shift that will see the European Commission endorsing national plans on how to implement EU objectives on the ground. The Commission would be checking their performance, not only their compliance with EU rules. 

But in an explanation of his vote to the European Parliament plenary session, Sant said that a derogation allowing the allocation of up to €3 million per year of voluntary coupled support to Maltese farmers, remains missing from the strategic plan. 

“Without this derogation, Maltese farmers would face massive drops of essential support that could mean the definite collapse of the sector,” Sant said, voting against both the Commission Proposal as well as the final EP Plenary Report on the CAP Strategic Plan. 

Sant had attempted to include the derogation through an amendment in the Budget Opinion, and by representations with European Parliament negotiators but the proposal was not taken on board.   

The CAP remains today a very relevant and much needed tool for European farmers but since 2003, a third of EU farms closed down. 

“It is essential that the CAP is adapted to the current socio-economic conditions of all member states and such adaptation has to include the needs of the different landscapes within the EU,” Sant said. 

“Unfortunately, both the original Commission Proposal on the CAP Strategic Plans, as well as the EP text amending it, fail to do so... it can no longer be denied that over the long-term, EU membership has resulted in a steady erosion of the Maltese agricultural sector. 

“CAP interventions in Malta should be designed in such a way as to rectify the damage. There is no other way by which they would make sense.” 

Under the policy shift approved by MEPs, mandatory climate and environmentally-friendly practices will be required for farmers to get direct support.

But MEPs voted to progressively reduce annual direct payments to farmers above €60,000 and cap them at €100,000. Farmers could be allowed to deduct 50% of agriculture-related salaries from the total amount before reduction.

EU states could use at least 4% of their direct payments budgets to support young farmers.

The strategic plans regulation was approved by 425 votes in favour to 212 against, with 51 abstentions.

 

 

The last reform of the EU farm policy, established in 1962, dates back to 2013. Current CAP rules expire on 31 December 2020. They should be replaced by transitional rules until the ongoing CAP reform is agreed and approved by the Parliament and Council. 

The PN candidate for Europe, Peter Agius, blamed government for failing to coordinate a  national effort inside the Council of Ministers.

“Malta supported the CAP reform package in July and again in October, and the work of the Maltese MEPs in the European Parliament Committees and Plenary where our representatives end up voting along different lines on matters which are after all, of common national interest,” Agius said.

Agius said farmers and food producers were puzzled on how they should reconcile self-congratulatory statements on CAP reform negotiations by government ministers, and Sant’s statement. “Government should come clean, cut through the complexity and coordinate its work better in Brussels for the sake of an industry that is begging for serious political representation for the sake of fresh and healthy food for all our families.”

Like Sant, he warned that farmers are on the brink of bankruptcy. “Our families and our food security will suffer if they close shop. We need to bolster consumption of local produce and ensure the effective deployment of EU aid and EU permitted state aid such as the voluntary coupled support system which sustains hundreds of tomato and dairy farmers through agreements with local manufacturers.”

Agius said national coordination on on agriculture was all the more important without any Maltese MEP on the AGRI committee. “It requires a strong collective and national effort which at present seems to be conspicious by its absence.”

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