Cane Vella about the challenges of farming in Malta

The new CAP takes further steps towards a fairer distribution of income support and a greater targeting towards small and medium-sized farms.” (European Commission)

The New Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is declared to be greener and fairer. In order to improve farmer’s situations a fairer distribution of CAP income support among farmers is promised by the European Commission.

What are the big challenges of farming in Malta? What obstacles do Maltese farmers have to face? How can farmers be supported?

Friends of the Earth Malta interviewed Maltese farmer Cane Vella and asked him about the major challenges of being a farmer in Malta. Cane is a young farmer and environmentalist at heart, who passionately works on his farm applying sustainable and ethical farming practices. Together with his partner Cassandra he works on his project Biome Munch in Burmarrad. At Biome Munch it is all about looking at food in a holistic way. Their vision is to promote a Mediterranean Diet and make eating a local and nutritious diet simple, affordable and accessible to people in Malta.

Cane emphasized several aspects, which he thinks are the main obstacles to farming in Malta. According to Cane the prices of vegetables and fruits form one challenge. The price difference between organic and commercially produced vegetables and fruits is high which explains why the general public would rather buy commercially produced vegetables and fruits. “Organic produce is still not available to the general public”, said Cane, “It’s a challenge to provide organically produced vegetables and fruits to the general public and at the same time make a living from it.” This fact describes one reason why organic farming is no option for many farmers in Malta and is therefore one milestone to overcome in order to make farming greener in Malta and more sustainable.

In addition to that, Cane outlines the need for a system that supports the value of food. It’s not clear to people where their vegetables and fruits come from, whether it is from Malta or France or Italy. “There are no labels on veggies and fruits at the supermarket. People cannot tell whether their purchases come from the neighbour farmer or a foreign country.” This makes it harder for people in Malta to support local farmers even if they are willing to.

According to Cane the lack of workforce in farming has created another major challenge. “We do not have enough support in the way we need it and instead get support in the wrong areas. Farmers receive funds to buy tractors, while the majority actually needs help with a completely different section.” Cane sees business incentives as one solution. It could be an option for businesses to receive incentives, if they decide to support local farmers. To give an example he explains that it would be helpful, if funds would be given to businesses if they employed local farmers to grow vegetables and fruits for them. This would create a “sustainable workforce”, said Cane. “And from my own experience I can tell that this system is working. I work together with Xara lodge. In my opinion, they are leading the way in sustaining farmers by supporting them to grow vegetables directly for the local industry.” The Xara Lodge is a purpose-built multi-functional event venue located in the countryside outside Rabat. “Since they have the capital funds to buy land and support the local farming industry, big companies can help solve these issues, and in this way, farmers can sustain their families.”

Another challenge lies in the accessibility of land. “It’s impossible to access land in Malta. If your family does not already own land, you have no chance.” This would make it impossible for young people and those interested in farming to start up. The average age of farmers in Malta is 57, but young farmers cannot get a hold of land as the sector is pricing them out. “Land is not affordable and you won’t receive a loan from the bank, if you want to use it for agricultural reasons.” This system would need to be changed and support would be needed, especially for young people in order to make it possible for them to enter the agricultural business.

Friends of the Earth Malta is convinced that projects like Biome Munch and farmers like Cane and Cassandra need to be supported by governmental institutions and policies. It is also important that the general public and communities support their local farmers with their political and, when possible, economic decisions.

Read more about Cane and Biome Munch and listen to what Cane Vella has to share about this experience as a farmer:


Written by Marika Schoenherr

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