Malta Food Agency to administer Pixkerija and Pitkalija markets

The Malta Food Agency will be overseeing established markets, while transforming their operations towards a more traceable and fair system

The Malta Food Agency will regulate established markets, while implementing a more traceable and fair system.

The new Malta Food Agency will be regulating food produce from farming and fishing, while administering operations of the abattoir, Pitkalija and Pixkerija.

Its role will be that of overseeing established markets, while transforming their operations towards a more traceable and fair system.

Addressing the announcement on Wednesday, Chief Officer at the agriculture ministry Sonya Sammut, said the agency will look to regulate markets through new licensing and standards procedures.

“This will create a more level playing field for those involved, while designing an ecosystem that sustains food production,” she said.

The agency will also make up for “market failures” brought about by low production due to the country’s small size.

She said the newly imposed market standards will increase the products’ value.

A reform in the Pitkalija was also announced on Wednesday, allowing for a more transparent system which through a barcode, will allow those involved to track the origin of the product they would be handling.

All sales will be recorded on an electronic system, with a delivery note being issued.

“We will be creating a modern market,” she said.

Last April, middlemen refused to turn up at the central vegetable market in protest at a government consultation process to improve the Pitkalija’s operations.

They initially accused the government of wanting to increase the bank guarantee they pay each year as security for the payments due to farmers. They also wanted the government to do away altogether with bank guarantees and to increase their commission from 8% to 15%.

The farmers’ association insisted the guarantees should be kept in place and it found the support of the ministry, which said it would protect the farmers and provide a viable system through which they are paid in time and in full for the produce they sell.

RFID stickers for those entering the Pitkalija premises will also be handed out to the qualified person, creating controlled access to the area.

The agency will also improve communication between the different stakeholders, with Sammut saying that their needs would be communicated and dealt with in a better way.

She also said that due to the European standards imposed on middlemen and farmers, the product quality would improve.

Minister Anton Refalo said there are nearly 1,000 farmers and 1,500 wholesalers working at the Pitkalija, generating a yearly turnover of €20 million.

“That is why the reform needed to be enacted, and we look forward towards continuing to expand our horizons, even beyond our shores,” he said.

The minister stated the pandemic has highlighted the need for the country to protect its food sources, and the newly formed agency will change the concept on how the sector is run in the country.

He also shrugged off claims that there were business interests who wanted to take over the Pitkalija premises, insisting government will not look to private or liberalise the sector.

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