What do the locals think about local food?

In April, Friends of the Earth Malta launched ‘Food for thought’, a poll designed to gauge people’s insight into the Common Agricultural Policy, and personal preferences towards local farming and produce. There were 487 of you! It was with great curiosity that we looked through the responses and found many common frustrations and challenges.

The CAP quiz started with the first three questions revolving around people’s knowledge about the CAP. The quiz has shown that a majority of the 487 respondents did know a thing or two about the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). While the CAP might not be common knowledge to the wider public, a vast majority of respondents, namely 417 respondents

Had heard the name before. Likewise, the majority of people, 443 and 370 respectively, correctly selected the projects which are funded through the CAP: ‘The Farm to Fork strategy’ and ‘Biodiversity strategy 2030 for Malta’. It is positive to see the majority of respondents answering these first two questions correctly, we can speculate that that people have had prior knowledge or interest in the topic, or have been prompted to obtain more information about it. What people were not as sure about was how much the CAP costs them. This one was a bit tricky, and respondents weren’t quite sure between the cost of a pastizz, a coffee, a text message or a pizza. We can now finally tell you that the Common Agricultural policy costs each citizen as much as pastizz.

From our poll, we found out that, 441 out of 487 people currently buy locally already, which leaves us with 46 not buying locally. Reasons for this were the lack of accessibility and time, monetary reasons, improper (online) advertisement and lack of labelling of local Maltese produce. Furthermore, some buyers stated they prefer to buy whatever they need and not only what has been produced locally. This is an opportunity for farmers because our poll shows people are willing to buy local produce but find it difficult to spot them. Besides increasing the labelling, the importance of local produce needs to be broadcasted as some reasons for not buying locally were that the consumer is unaware of the importance. So, a consumer aspires to buy locally, however, in Malta, this is not so straightforward. . As it is difficult to get the consumer to local produce, local produce needs to be brought to the consumer as there is interest and demand. When these products are more available for consumers, it needs to be clear with labelling that eases it to differentiate them from imported goods.

FoEM is happy to see that so many of our contestants, 401 out of 487, are eager to have a piece of land to grow veggies themselves. FoEM encourages all of you to do so if you have the opportunity and resources, however, it can also be understood that not everyone has the time and energy to engage in farming. Therefore, to enable those who still want to have the benefits of having their own piece of land, community gardens and farms can be created. This way, people can share land and share the responsibilities that it requires.

More and more people are conscious of pesticides, the local environment and personal health. 461 out of the 487 contestants answered that they believe organic farming does not get enough support. Luckily, people take matters into their own hands and search for organic foods themselves in their surroundings. An example of organic produce is Bidni Organic Farm, producing a range of certified organic local produce organic vegetables and fruits.

People named many different specific reasons for what would make it easier for them to buy more seasonal and local produce. . For most people, accessibility, in the sense of being able to buy it in supermarkets or there being more farmer markets, is one of the biggest reasons. For example, someone mentioned that they cannot go out to farmers’ markets due to a lack of a vehicle People also want clear labels, since this clearly indicates what is local, for instance, a small Maltese flag on these products. Money also plays a big role, people are not all of the same, and foreign, cheaper produced products are more appealing right now for many, as their prices are more competitive.

To conclude, more collaboration between consumer and seller needs to be undertaken and when selling these local and organic products, they need to be labelled for recognition and awareness.  Here, better regulation comes into play. We need legislation and subsidies for the Maltese agricultural sector to promote local produce and increase national food security. By doing this, the target group that desires healthy, fresh, local and organic produce is finally being answered.

At Friends of the Earth Malta, we find it important to support human′s positive relationships with the environment and ensure and promote the sustainable use of natural resources. Sustainable farming supports nature and biodiversity and safeguards our rural land. Organic and local produce differs throughout seasons, that is why they are packed with flavour and are more nutritious. To get more insight into what’s in season, FoEM has created the Agro Katina pocket guide. You can download the guide and read more information here.

We would like to thank all the contestants for participating in the quiz and sharing your points of view with Friends of the Earth Malta. We are more than happy with almost 500 replies from people all over Malta who were keen to learn more about the CAP and agriculture farming in Malta. We hope you have enjoyed the quiz and expanded your knowledge!

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