Farmers taking only quarter of CAP subsidies pocketed by Italians – Peter Agius

Malta farmers short-changed by low EU subsidies negotiated by government, leading to less land being tilled for agriculture

Maltese farmers are being earning some €2,700 less for each hectare of produce than Italian counterparts, the PN candidate for Europe Peter Agius has said, laying the blame at the feet of the Labour government.

Data from the last national Common Agricultural Policy strategic plans submitted by both governments in 2022 shows that EU subsidies for fresh product categories in Italy are superior to Malta.

Farmers in Malta will get a maximum €1,400 per hectare for vegetables and legumes, compared to €4,100 for Italian farmers on the same product. “That amounts to a €2,700 difference which the Maltese farmer has to offset to compete on the same footing with imported products, leading to a situation of permanently unfair competition,” Agius said.

Agius blamed the Labour administration for the discrepancy in farming subsidies.

“Prime Minister Robert Abela has blamed the EU for the farmers situation, but figures show that his government has negotiated a very unfair deal for Maltese farmers under the same EU policies which the Italians used for much more generous subsidies. The EU is simply the tool which the government is not using well enough, and as we all know, a bad workman quarrels with his tools!”

The CAP compares subsidies allocated to an average medium-sized farm in Malta and in Italy respectively, for the production of vegetables and legumes, olive oil and tomatoes.

“A look at the Maltese National CAP Strategic Plan additionally shows a clear handicap for Maltese agriculture, given that in Malta only 55% of agricultural land is declared for CAP purposes when compared to 80% in Italy,” Agius added.

This means Maltese farmers not only receive less subsidies per hectare from the CAP’s first pillar, but also use less of the available agricultural land for coverage with EU subsidies.

This leads to a situation of systemic competitive disadvantage and a gradual and inevitable loss of market share – in 2004, Maltese produce was 60% of the entire food market upon EU accession, but this has now shrunk to 20%.

“Malta-produced food is being pushed out of the market by design. This risks having tragic consequences both for food inflation, as we are paying higher transport costs, for the environment given the emissions involved, and most importantly for food insecurity,” Agius said.

“Malta is without doubt the EU member state most at risk of food insecurity, where we have the smallest production of organic food and the highest average age of farmers tilling our land. The writing is on the wall – reverse this trend or be condemned to higher food prices or even risk hunger in case of international crises,” Agius said.

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