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A flexible Common Agricultural Policy for sustainable farming

30.10.12 | News

A sound Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one that provides the right instruments to farmers in different agricultural realities to operate sustainable farming practices which produce adequate high quality food at competitive prices, a round table was told.

The round table was held at the Grand Hotel Excelsior in Floriana as part of Re:turn to the Future, a European Union-funded campaign in Bulgaria, Estonia, Malta and Portugal, marking CAP’s 50th anniversary since it was introduced to ensure sufficient food provision to the EU population, reported Di-ve. The forum was attended by agricultural representatives and stakeholders from the four countries, which are characterised by similar farming realities.

The Head of the European Commission Representation in Malta Martin Bugelli said: “Along the years CAP has provided a level of protection to the agricultural industry to generate the quantities of quality produce needed. It has also looked after the benefits for consumers who are at the heart of the agricultural chain.”

Mr Bugelli said: “Malta’s challenges remain its geography and characteristics, like the level and type of soil, and the country needs to have the instruments to compete not only with other EU countries but also with non-member states, like North African countries. He encouraged a better understanding of the different agricultural realities among member states as this will ensure a CAP that caters for the individual and specific needs of the different farming communities, while protecting food safety, the environment and animal welfare.”

Dr Justin Zahra, Director of Agriculture at the Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs, said: “Small member states like Malta deserve preferential treatment that reflects the country’s agricultural reality.” He said Malta’s challenges remain the industry’s sustainability and viability. CAP is instrumental in securing Maltese farmers the right instruments to develop their activity at a profit.

Dr Zahra said: “Since Malta joined the EU, the value added that CAP brought to Maltese agriculture was among, other things, the transformation which took place in the way Maltese farmers operate and the technology they now have. The farmers’ mindset became more professional. Malta today has fewer farmers but a better quality product. Dr Zahra emphasised the importance of education in the industry to keep improving it and called for more attention to the specifics of island farming and flexible support that offers opportunities even to attract young farmers into the practice.

Francis Galea, from Kooperattivi Malta, said that Maltese produce is suffering in pricing since it faces stiff competition from imported fruit and vegetables. “Maltese agriculture and biodiversity would benefit from better education of both farmers and consumers to produce and eat fresh food. CAP could also be more flexible in facilitating education, research and exchanges of know-how, human capital and ideas among member states.”

Majjistral Action Group Foundation’s Marisa Marmara’ explained why a new CAP 2014-2020 will favour short supply chains to create greater value added to producers and the sustainability of the food chain. The benefit of such an approach is that the farmer supplies according to demand, curbing wastage of produce and resources, and increasing quality and sustainability.