Maltese farmers get millions in aid, says minister in reaction to solidarity ride

Farmers in solidarity ride to Floriana in support of European protests from farmers against EU agriculture rules

Anton Refalo (left)
Anton Refalo (left)

A planned solidarity ride by Maltese farmers in Valletta today and comments from the Opposition, has seen agricultural minister Anton Refalo insist that over €300 million has been directed to Maltese farming over the last five years.

Maltese farmers are joining Europe-wide protests against the EU plans they say will threaten the livelihoods of farmers. The event will take the form of a rally of agricultural and non-agricultural vehicles that will depart from the Ta’ Qali farmers’ market, and proceed towards Floriana.

But farmers spoke to MaltaToday saying that government officials had called on various members of the community not to take part in the solidarity ride.

PN shadow minister Toni Bezzina said rather than trying to interfere with their fundamental rights, the government should be focusing on the challenges the sector is facing. “With farming facing a threat from so many markets in Europe and beyond, the government should not be trying to muzzle farmers, but offering support,” Bezzina said.”

Refalo replied saying his ministry had piloted bold reforms for Malta’s agriculturalists. “These protests are aimed at the European Parliament and European institutions, the circumstances of which are not connected to our realities.”

He said farmers benefit from €15 million in aid, based on an €84 per tumulo of land – up from €30 – and a similar €60 per tumolo grant for young farmers.

Refalo said farmers received €79 million in direct funds between 2019 and 2023 for farming infrastructure, and €190 million in EU funds from the 2021-27 financial framework.

He also said rural investment funds for farmers will climb to €25 million in 2024.

“We’ve been a shoulder to farmers in times of need,” Refalo said. “These grants benefited animal farmers and growers to face the challenges from the effects of the war in Ukraine.”

Several farmers and herders who spoke to MaltaToday said they are being pressured by the agriculture ministry not to attend the solidarity ride. Members of the milk producers’ cooperative KPH were also informed that if they attend, they cannot mention the cooperative.

Cow farm owners are angry since they have 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 cow herder told MaltaToday.

Benna is the milk production company that buys fresh milk from cow producers KPH.