After the agricultural fair has ended

The onslaught on agricultural land is continuous. It is unfortunately many a time abated by land use planning operatives. It would be an understatement to emphasise that they should know better.

Among the countless examples faced on a continuous basis I can list the following: the over-development of road infrastructure, quarries, boatyards, solar farms and fireworks factories proposed in rural areas and in lieu of agricultural land. Added to these examples one can add the craze of changing the use of agricultural land into picnic or barbeque areas. This creation of recreational areas is squeezing out agriculture! All this would not happen without the complicity of the Planning Authority and those appointed to lead it.

The agricultural fair organised last week exposed another aspect: the anguish of the farming community. A discussion organised within the precincts of the grounds of the agricultural fair focused on food security. The spiralling cost of imported animal feed fuelled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as international business pressures are adding to the problems of those involved in animal husbandry.

Farmers are being pushed out of the land they have been tilling at an increasing rate. No one in his right senses would dare invest in the modernisation of an agricultural holding in such a climate. The banks, on the other hand, emphasised the farmers who took part in the discussion, are not forthcoming with loans to facilitate matters, most probably as they consider the risks involved too high.

In the meantime, eviction of farmers from the land they have tilled for generations continues unabated as government takes too long to come up with a reform of the agricultural lease legal setup.

Government has, for all intents and purposes, abandoned the agricultural community. In addition, it has repeatedly carved agricultural land into new or widened roads. The irrigated agricultural land at Attard had to make way for the so-called Central Link. Shortly more agricultural land on the outskirts of  Qormi will make way for improvements to the Mrieħel bypass project.  Add this to the planned havoc continuously emanating from the Planning Authority and you can easily understand what the agricultural community has to bear.

It is indeed ironic that a government which boasts of a programme which is intended to create more open spaces is at the same time determined to ruin more natural open spaces on the outskirts of our towns and villages.

It is clear that government has taken a basic political decision: cars have a priority over agriculture. This decision is clearly manifested in the manner of operation of Infrastructure Malta which is gobbling up extensive agricultural land which stands in the way of its projects. It is further manifested in the absolute silence of the Agricultural Ministry when it is faced with this behaviour. The agricultural minister is apparently more interested in our heritage which leaves him little time to focus on the needs of agriculture and the farmers who depend on it for their livelihood.

Given the ever-increasing population on these islands it was always very clear that local agriculture could never, on its own, suffice to cater for our needs. Supplementing local agricultural produce with imported produce should be done with care as there is always a danger that the local market can be flooded with low priced goods which make the life of our farmers more miserable than it already is!

The organisation of the agricultural fair was a good idea. It must however be supplemented with a heavy dose of good faith which is missing in the attitudes of the holders of political office in the Ministry of Agriculture through the rest of the year, that is when there is no agricultural fair!

published on the Malta Independent on Sunday : 29 May 2022

Kuxjenza għajjiena

Il-Ministru tal-Ambjent hu Lawrence Gonzi. Huwa bniedem ta’ kuxjenza. Li jgħarbel, jiżen u jaqta’ skond ma tgħidlu l-kuxjenza.

Dan l-aħħar minħabba l-proposta ta’ JPO fuq id-divorzju il-kuxjenza ta’ Lawrence Gonzi ħadmet bl-overtime. M’hux faċli, ngħiduha kif inhi, li tippjana referendum u taħseb li n-nies ser ikollha l-istess opinjoni tiegħek u jmurlek kollox żmerċ! Gonzipn ippjana li jkollu deċiżjoni kontra d-divorzju mittieħda mir-referendum u spiċċa jkollu jħaddem il-kuxjenza. Issa din għajjiet ftit u allura affarijiet oħra jkolhom jistennew.

Ikollhom jibqgħu jistennew ir-residenti ta’ Triq Tumas Chetcuti  f’Ħ’Attard. Dawn ilhom jissaportu l-barriera magħrufa bħala ta’ Wied Inċita. Qed timliehom bit-trabijiet u l-awtoritajiet ilabalbu biss. Il-kuxjenza tal-Ministru tal-Ambjent jidher  qegħda bil-leave għax għajjiet u issa m’hiex f’posizzjoni li tagħmel xogħolha. Kieku l-kuxjenza m’hiex bil-leave il-Ministru tal-Ambjent Lawrence Gonzi zgur li jitlob spjegazzjoni  għal 7 enforcement  notices mill-MEPA tul is-snin fuq din il-barriera :

ECF 254/94, 522/96, 693/96, 367/98, 546/98, 936/98, 224/02

Dawn l-enforcement notices huma dwar il-barrieri Numri 3 u 12. Il-Barriera numru 3 hi magħrufa bħala ta’ Wied Inċita Attard fil-waqt li l-barriera numru 12 hi fi Triq ir-Rabat Ħaż-Żebbuġ. Dawn iż-żewg barrieri jinfdu u huma tal-istess sidien.

Alternattiva Demokratika dal-għodu indirizzat lill-istampa fuq il-problemi li dawn  iż-żewġ barrieri qed joħolqu lir-residenti. Forsi l-kuxjenza tal-Onorevoli Ministru Lawrence Gonzi tqum mir-raqda. Jew ta’ l-inqas ma tibqax riżervata għad-divorzju biss.     

il-Ministru tal-Ambjent : dak tal-lum u ta’ qablu