Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Information and recommendations about farmers and COVID-19 quarantine measures

The MaYA Foundation has been following a few cases where farmers have been obliged to follow quarantine rules. Frequently asked questions and official replies can be obtained on this link: https://agrifish.gov.mt/en/Documents/coronavirus/faqCoronaVirusEN.pdf

A farmer may be obliged to stay at home for 15 days as a preventive measure or in case of a positive COVID-19 result. One may then request for an exemption by email and only after providing detailed information about farming duties an exemption might be granted from the Health Department following further investigations and recommendations by relevant departments.

We are aware that such exemptions are stringent especially for full-time farmers, so we have been trying to understand the situation better while liaising with relevant departments.
 
Following communication with various health and agri officials over the past few days, we have gathered the following list of issues and recommendations. These recommendations have been forwarded to the relevant departments.
 


Provisions necessary 

As far as we know, farmers have not been specifically notified, about the conditions they need to abide by in case of quarantine. Unfortunately, the quarantine situation may lead to a number of difficult situations. 

We are aware of the struggles faced in order to obtain an exemption, and wish to prevent similar situations from happening in the future. 

Not all farms are equipped with basic amenities and for public health reasons, a citizen with all the civil rights and dignity, of course, cannot go and live on a farm in such conditions. Some farmers live on the same premises, but not everyone is as lucky.

Recommendation: We appreciate that quarantine rules cannot be breached, and that an exemption is difficult to obtain, so we are advocating for sector-sensitive considerations, measures and awareness. 

Stakeholders and farmers alike need to be alerted about the current situation, and a corresponding action plan clearly set out to be followed when it becomes necessary.

Being unprepared is the worst possible scenario. 

 

Time window

An allocation of one hour a day is simply not enough to manage a whole farm, irrespective of the size of the holding/herd. Full-time farmers especially, spend more than 10 hours a day on average managing their farms and one cannot simply abandon farm operations. 

Many farmers manage their farms together with other family members, but others do not. If a farm has a workforce of say 3 persons, and suddenly the load is shared between just 2, there are surely several repercussions.

Recommendation: Since there are no freelance service providers who can replace their work (not even at a cost), we would like to ask whether a temporary skilled workforce funded by the Ministry can be set up to alleviate such situations. 


 
Location where quarantine needs to be carried out

Arable farmers, livestock breeders and farm managers working on mixed farms may encounter different situations. We believe that a case-by-case approach needs to be adopted together with a strong communication channel that needs to be established between the farmer and related government officials. 

The 111 helpline gives advice on the health aspects of such situations but not on the agri/veterinary/welfare side.

One must not forget that at the beginning of the pandemic, farmers were considered an important asset for the country, for food security reasons. Now that the second wave has hit, we still need to be very careful and fully support food producers, in all manners possible.

 

Transportation of feeds, live/dead animals

A farmer under quarantine cannot leave the farm (if he/she is carrying out the mandatory quarantine on the farm). Obtaining feeds, other resources and transporting live/dead animals might be complicated to avoid exposure with other persons.

If the farmer is not living on the farm throughout quarantine and is visiting the farm during limited hours as obliged by health authorities, this will likely pose difficulties coordinating deliveries, where delivery persons carrying feeds may not be readily available to carry feeds at 5am or after 10pm. 

Recommendation: Farmers need to be encouraged and advised to store sufficient resources for a period of 15 days on the farm, in case they are on quarantine.

In the case that an animal needs to be urgently transferred from one farm to another, or to the abattoir, farmers are suggesting that a temporary service is provided by the veterinary services.

 

Financial losses incurred

If a farmer neglects his crops/livestock, huge financial losses will result. Such losses need to be avoided at all costs. Farmers need to set up a contingency plan in case they cannot sell their products or losses are suffered during quarantine. 

Farmers are asking who will be responsible for such losses. 

Recommendation: All farmers need to be aware of what can happen and how to deal with such situations. A support fund needs to be set up in order for farmers to fall back on in case of need.




We shall be keeping our followers informed through the news section of our website and on MaYA Facebook page



To keep in touch, drop us a line on info@maya.org.mt.

 
 

Monday, 14 September 2020

CAP Renewal post 2020: land-based payments

Now that discussions about the new CAP are underway, farmers are bringing suggestions forward to MaYA Foundation. These, together with other recommendations will be passed on to the Minister of Agriculture and the Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds in a few weeks time. 

Malta is the smallest country within the European Union, with a total area of 11,000 hectares of agricultural land. This area is relatively insignificant compared to other countries within the EU, however many of the payments related to the CAP are tied to land area. This is one major challenge for Malta, as it cannot utilise area-based funding with the same efficacy as other countries do. 

There have been various mentions that landbased payments funded by the CAP need to be targeted towards the actual farmers. However, this is not always happening, since landowners from whom the farmers lease the land, might end up as being beneficiaries themselves. Farmers working the land would not be able to apply for these land-based payments if the owner would already be availing himself/herself of such payments.

The system needs to be revised in such a way to ensure that genuine farmers are the main beneficiaries of land-based CAP payments. This issue, amongst others tied to land-based payments, has been flagged many times all over Europe and now that strategic plans are being laid out, policymakers need to ensure that the next programming period will be more relevant and targeted towards those who bring forward positive benefits in rural areas. 


Jeanette Borg

Founder, MaYA Foundation

Wied Liemu - Photo by Steve Bonello
Photo by Steve Bonello


More information

https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/eu-agricultural-policy-incoherent-and-outdated-report/?fbclid=IwAR2zc6vAqWuMGG0qR0Us8Ivm43VLfEnkVsML8qcdQY8eGUXp5o--7rdmOos

https://www.fwi.co.uk/business/business-management/tenancies-rents/top-8-farm-tenancy-issues-solve 

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Farmers worried about crops weathering irregular rainfall patterns

"As Malta moves into the autumn, a heavier than normal rainfall in the coming weeks may spell disaster for Malta’s food crops"

Nicole Meilak from Maltatoday explains further.

Click here to read the article. 






Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Recommendations on the Pitkalija Reform - FoEM & MaYA

Friends of the Earth Malta (FoEM) & the Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation (MaYA) welcome the reform of the Pitkali Market since the current operation at the market has been heavily criticised due to lack of transparency in prices and a lack of traceability, as weighing and data inputting are still done manually.

Both organisations presenting this document have been for quite some time pushing for better supply chain management when it comes to local products, therefore we look forward to seeing the imminent implementation of the Pitkalija Reform.




Click here to access the full comments on the Pitkalija Reform Document. 




A selection of resources relating to Pitkalija.


AgroKatina | Friends of the Earth Malta (FoEM)


Lack of transparency at pitkalija a major issue for farmers | The Malta Independent | Malcolm Borg, Centre for Agriculture at MCAST


National Agricultural Policy for the Maltese Islands 2018 – 2028 | Final Report prepared for the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change


Pitkali Market: feasibility study on the building of a fruit and vegetable grading station and cold storage facility in Malta | Country Report Dec. '15 CIHEAM 


The last farmer at Wied il-Ghasel… | MaltaToday, Jeanette Borg (Founder, MaYA) 


We Are Under Siege’: Maltese Farmers Rally After Being Accused Of High Pesticide Use | LovinMalta

Monday, 24 August 2020

Current situation about the sustainable use of PPPs in Malta

Combating plant pests and diseases in Malta is a major challenge for growers. 

Over the past few decades, the variety of pests and diseases has drastically increased due to the importation of live plants, fresh fruits and vegetables. Although the work within the Plant Protection Directorate and MCCAA is to be commended, we need to acknowledge the fact that newly introduced pests and diseases are a harsh reality that Maltese growers are facing. Due to free trade agreements within the EU, and bilateral agreements with non-EU countries, Malta is open to a high influx of fruit and vegetable imports which may impose a risk on our agricultural biodiversity.




Local research about the latest IPM technologies and pesticide efficacy is needed


Growers do not have the necessary scientific tools available at hand to guide them on how to combat pests and diseases efficiently. When crops manifest signs of infection, growers need to act fast to avoid losses. A loss in production will result in a loss of revenue and possible profits. Very often, authorised sellers of PPPs are the only ones to recommend which product to use in a particular circumstance. The "trial and error" approach should not be encouraged, however, minimal efforts are being made by relevant stakeholders to offer alternative unbiased solutions. 


Apart from becoming ever-more sensitive towards the environment and their own health, growers strive to avoid the use of PPP’s since they are extremely expensive and their use drastically increases the total cost of production. Having said that, treatment of crops may sometimes be necessary to ensure a sustainable harvest. 

 

 

 

Local growers are expressing concerns about the limited variety of PPPs available to them


Malta has a narrower range of PPPs available on the local market, compared to our neighbouring countries. Local growers have often pointed out that a number of organic pesticides can considerably alleviate infestation of certain pests in Malta. Such organic pesticides, which may also be potentially used by conventional growers, are not available in Malta for a number of reasons. This is once again limiting local growers’ options and forcing them to use synthetic pesticides rather than organic alternatives.



A selection of seasonal fruit and veg at a local farmers market


 

Awareness amongst the general public is necessary to portray the reality 


More awareness is needed to communicate facts amongst locals on how growers ensure the production of safe and nutritious food. Following a series of deceitful, negative articles in the press, law-abiding growers have become victims of a misleading campaign. Public perception has affected sales of locally grown fruits and vegetables and more needs to be done to counteract lies and inaccuracies that have been disseminated.

 

Many local growers are nowadays users of the internet and carry out research about possible IPM strategies to implement on their farms. Young farmers are also more pro in using information from reliable sources on the internet and often make direct contact with experts abroad who may give specific advice and share knowledge.


Registered farmers are not only aware about which PPPs are legal, and how to use them, but the vast majority also attend obligatory courses to obtain licenses as PPP handlers. This should be enforced across the board with anyone else who grows plants (edible and ornamental) and intends to purchase over-the-counter PPPs. 




Recommendations 


- Stricter border controls to keep new pests and diseases away from our shore

- Better enforcement through tougher fines for those who breach legislation

- Outreach amongst the local community about locally grown fruits and vegetables

- More tailor-made training for growers about IPM



***

To download the document in PDF click here.


ACT and MaYA Foundation submit feedback for the re-evaluation of the National Rural Policy



ACT's and MaYA's have submitted a document outlining amendments and suggestions to the re-evaluated national rural policy. 

These suggestions were drawn up following a careful analysis of the policy document by the ACT (VO/1491) and the MaYA Foundation (VO/0823), and a public discussion organised by the two organisations that brought together stakeholders, individuals and representatives from other NGOs. 

The agricultural sector needs to be better enabled to grow sustainably. Agriculture is crucial towards our food security, the stewardship of our rural areas, and the rural character. Farmers ought to be able to make an adequate living. Their interests should be better represented by the policy, while at the same time, certain types of permitted development that are unnecessary and damaging to rural areas should be curtailed or removed. 

We acknowledge that the revision has made some important improvements on the preceding policy, however, some changes were perceived to be counterproductive to the progression and preservation of our rural landscapes. The policy does not adequately serve the needs of the modern farmer who, in a highly-competitive market, is under great pressure to update his/her machinery and to innovate his/her production and marketing methods. These necessitate improved land access and adequate storage space that caters for different kinds of machinery and different kinds of produce. In view of this, our suggestions below reflect the need for farmers to encountering fewer hindrances when applying for certain kinds of structures. This includes making it easier for genuine farmers to add value by developing on-farm retail facilities that showcase the processes involved in cultivating and processing fresh and artisanal produce. 

The policy as it does not favor facilities for small-scale farmers, despite existing examples of structures that have a small footprint and are sensitively designed to blend in effectively with the surrounding rural environment. Supporting the needs of small-scale farmers ensures a more resilient, populous, and diverse agricultural community, and more opportunities for resource sharing, capacity exchange, innovation, and the possibility for the creation of distinctive products and diversified streams of income for the agricultural sector. 

In order to avoid abuses, there is a crucial need in the policy for a criterion that identifies and enables genuine farmers. Other organisations have already pointed out that declared turnover (from agricultural related activities) is the best indicator of genuine agricultural engagement, and we support this demand. Apart from agricultural activities, there are activities that target ecology restoration which most of the time do not generate turnover; especially in the beginning. For such projects, it is recommended that the Environment and Resources Authority has a crucial role and possibly a veto in decision making as the competent authority for environmental protection.

It should be recognized that most forms of genuine farming entail spending most of one’s days not just to animals but also to crops. This is true not only for breeders with large herds but also for breeders with fewer animals and also for arable farmers. Thus, we suggest a more lenient policy with regards to farmer dwellings, alongside even tighter restrictions on non-farmer dwellings. Maximum building sizes are generally deemed excessive and smaller maximums are suggested. 

We propose that in Section A, a clause is included that provides a clear statement of how the relevant authorities are understanding the needs of the sector through research and communication with stakeholders. This would ensure that not only are relevant stakeholders accountable to the policy but that the policy and the authority are also accountable to the agricultural sector and other stakeholders. 

Finally, we understand that a policy must ultimately be implemented and its measures upheld both during applications and for existing buildings and projects. Towards this end, we demand the introduction of clauses in section A that specify the monitoring and assistance responsibilities of different entities, stating by whom, how, how often, and with what resources these are achieved. In doing so, a guarantee should be included stating that reports made on site-visits should not merely be communicated to stakeholders orally, but should be sent by email or by post. Guarantees must also be given that sufficient resources are being allocated in order to successfully implement the policy and that their allocation is solidly based on an assessment of the tasks required to do so.

These policy consultation processes are of great importance in devising a representative political direction that tailors for our communities' needs and aspirations. ACT and MaYA will remain pro-active in allowing for a healthy discussion with the main stakeholders and in generating constructive amendments and suggestions. 

Monday, 10 August 2020

Feedback to MECP on the 'Low carbon development strategy for agriculture'

Following the consultation session organised by the Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning, carried out on Monday 28th July 2020, the MaYA Foundation has gathered feedback and recommendations from its supporters. 




Special thanks to Mr. Karl Scerri (MaYA admin and full time farmer) for compiling the document.

Click here to view and download the feedback document

Monday, 27 July 2020

Meeting about young farmers and EU funding


Ms. Jeanette Borg and Mr. Pierre Axiaq from the MaYA Foundation had the opportunity to discuss various issues raised by young farmers with Hon. Dr. Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for EU Funds.

Mr. Paul Zahra (Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs) and Mr. Sharlo Camilleri (Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture) were present for this meeting.

We look forward to a fruitful collaboration to maximise the benefits of EU funds in the Maltese Islands.




Thursday, 16 April 2020

MaYA Foundation urges the PA to give the Rural Policy "a complete overhaul"

PRESS RELEASE | 16th April 2020

The Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation is once again expressing concern over the current rural policy which allows for speculative development in Malta’s and Gozo’s sensitive rural areas. One of the latest controversies is the permission granted for the development of a sizeable sheep farm in Bidnija valley.

The Foundation concedes that all the requirements for the acquisition of a full development permit with minor amendments on PA 7946/18 obtained by Mr. Jason Vella, an active full-time young farmer, have been fulfilled in accordance with this vague policy. This has caused an understandable uproar by the local community. Subsequently, the applicant and this building have been mentioned various times in local media, after works ensued in this remote and pristine location. While we will keep encouraging farmers to invest further in their agribusiness, we must make sure that this is done sustainably. 

After further investigations, we understand that the two-level higher than normal floor building is set to be a fully operational sheep farm with ancillary facilities. However, taking into consideration the current local standard output, the magnitude of the farm is in our opinion unjustified, even if a dwelling for the farmer might be warranted. The building is extremely conspicuous and lies within a highly valued area, both in terms of agricultural and visual landscape. Some farmers whom we interviewed have expressed disappointment and pointed out that obtaining permits for new development has become relatively easier than getting the approval for amendments on already existing farms. 

Most of the new buildings being erected in rural areas over the past years have been much debated by the community as the rural environment keeps on shrinking. Whether the scope of the buildings is residential, industrial or agricultural, the MaYA Foundation has been, and will continue to be at the forefront of campaigns to try and curb unsustainable development including urban sprawl. 

The MaYA Foundation is putting forward a few suggestions to ensure sustainable development in rural areas;

  • A complete overhaul of the current rural policy which is not primarily aimed at supporting the farming community
  • Conversion of the abundant derelict buildings needs to be facilitated
  • Authorities need to ensure a more discrete appearance of new buildings complete with proper landscape mitigation measures
  • Regular revision of policies and improved consultation processes
  • Checking whether the desired scope has been achieved following implementation of the development.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Maltese agriculture set to be on a par with other member states

We, at the MaYA Foundation, are pleased to learn that one of the most salient points of our, and other NGOs', manifesto is set to be implemented - that of reinstating an autonomous ministry dedicated to Agriculture and Fisheries.

A well-deserved congratulations goes to Mr. Clint Camilleri for retaining his previous portfolio, adding more responsibilities, and managing to achieve greater authority. Such a promotion gives agri stakeholders renewed energy towards binging sustainable agriculture to its proper status.

Once again, we wish Mr. Camilleri and the rest of his team, all the very best in their endeavours. We echo our past commitment to assist as best as we can the authorities in order to continue safeguarding the interest of our farmers and breeders, who are in turn the main stewards of our rural areas.

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