Maltese farmers to take to the roads on Friday in protest ministry is trying to stop

Maltese farmers who are expected to join European-wide protests on Friday have been pressured by agriculture ministry officials not to participate

Farmers and herders will protest with their tractors on Friday. (Photo: Pexels)
Farmers and herders will protest with their tractors on Friday. (Photo: Pexels)

Updated at 4:30pm with PN reaction

Maltese farmers who are expected to join European-wide protests on Friday have been pressured by agriculture ministry officials not to participate, this newspaper has learnt. 

The farmers, who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity, said the protest is being supported by several cooperatives and organisations who operate within the sector. 

The ‘Demonstration for food producers’ is a protest against the European Union's current framework and future ambitions that "seriously threaten the livelihoods of farmers."

“The issues experienced by local farmers are different from those of other Europeans,” a farmer told MaltaToday. “In Malta, even our raw resources like land and water are threatened,” he added.

READ MORE: Striking farmers choke Brussels roads outside EP ahead of major summit

The event will take the form of a rally of agricultural and non-agricultural vehicles that will depart from the Ta’ Qali car park, adjacent to the farmers' market, and proceed towards Floriana, passing through Attard, Mosta, Lija, Birkirkara, Msida, and Pieta, finally arriving in Floriana (Triq Sarria) where vehicles will be parked, and a press conference held.

However, several farmers and herders who spoke to MaltaToday also said they are being pressured by the agriculture ministry not to attend.

Members of the milk producers' cooperative, KPH, were also informed that if they attend, they cannot mention the cooperative.

The sources said cow farm owners are angry since they ahve not benefitted from the two price hikes in fresh milk last year determined by KPH. They said their profits will remain the same while "Benna enjoys higher profits."

"This was one of the reasons why we were angry enough to consider joining our colleagues," a herder told MaltaToday.

In a Facebook post, PN MEP candidate Peter Agius condemned what he described as anti-democratic behaviour of agriculture minister Anton Refalo trying to stop farmers from protesting.

'Government should serve as a shoulder to lean on, not a surpressor of right' - Toni Bezzina

In response to MaltaToday's article, PN spokesperson for agriculture Toni Bezzina, criticised the government's approach, highlighting the need for assistance to the “struggling agricultural sector” instead of suppressing the concerns of farmers and herders.

"It is shameful that, in the face of numerous challenges confronting farmers and herders, the government attempts to silence them rather than offering a supportive hand during these difficult times," Bezzina said.

He further highlighted the counterproductive nature of such an attitude, particularly considering the uncertainties surrounding the sector, which faces threats from industries even beyond EU borders.

The PN called on the government to strengthen its relationship with the agricultural sector, urging it to recognise and respect the fundamental right of farmers to protest.

Bezzina emphasised that fostering a collaborative environment is crucial, especially when external factors pose potential risks to the industry.

He concluded by affirming the PN's commitment to being a staunch advocate for freedom of expression, saying that the party is “serving as the voice for those in the agricultural community.”