Updated at 6.30pm with Peter Agius reaction

Claims that local farmers are receiving fewer direct subsidies than their Italian counterparts are “fake news” and “populist politics”, the Agriculture Ministry said on Wednesday.

The ministry said that Maltese farmers receive more money than Italian ones, through a number of aid schemes not taken into account by the Opposition.

It was reacting to a statement by PN MEP candidate Peter Agius, who claimed that an analysis of EU agricultural funding showed that local farmers get just a fraction of the direct aid that Italians farmers get.

Agius said Maltese vegetable and legume farmers are eligible to receive €1,400 per hectare of land, versus the €4,100 per hectare allocated to Italian ones. The MEP candidate said this is because the Maltese government has opted to focus heavily on infrastructural aid, as opposed to direct subsidies.

Maltese farmers protested earlier this month and intend to do so again on Thursday, saying they are struggling to compete as new EU laws make it easier for cheaper, non-EU fruits and vegetables to be sold locally.

In its statement on Wednesday, the Agriculture Ministry said local farmers receive anything between €475.20 and €844.34 per hectare of land through the Basic Income Support for Sustainability scheme, while Italian farmers get between €150.47 and €183.91. Another scheme aimed at encouraging young farmers, the Complementary Income Support for Young Farmers (CISYF), guarantees local farmers between €520.64 and €560 per hectare, rising to a maximum of €700 per hectare this year.

In Italy, the ministry said, young farmers get a supplement of between €67 and €89.65 per hectare.

It said farmers who grow tomatoes have an even greater advantage over Italian ones, receiving a maximum of €8,500 as opposed to Italian farmers, who it said receive a maximum of €191.

“This government managed to double the direct assistance given to farmers when compared to 10 years ago,” it said. “This Government has always protected the interests of local farmers and producers who are not only seeing a substantial increase in assistance but are also reassured by all the significant reforms that we have achieved in the valuation of agricultural land regulations.

Peter Agius replies

In reaction, MEP candidate Peter Agius said the government should stop hiding in the bureacratic figures. He insisted that Maltese farmers got far fewer subsidies by all accounts as most of the fields are not even registered for EU aid and average holding in Malta is far smaller than in Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

A middle-sized farmer in Malta has on average 10 tumuli (1 hectare) while a middle-sized farmer in Italy has an average of 110 tumuli according to EU Commission data. The ratio comparing a middle-sized farmer between the 2 countries is therefore 1 against 11.

According to both CAP Strategic Plans, a young middle-sized farmer producing fresh products like legumes and vegetables gets €1,448 from the 1st CAP pillar in 2024 while an Italian one gets €4,097. 

A middle-sized Maltese farmer is therefore earning €2,700 less than his Italian counterparts.

Apart from this, the percentage allocated to the 1st CAP pillar in Malta according to the EU Commission in 2020 was 26.5 per cent against 69.9 per cent on average in Europe and 62.3 per cent in Italy.

“The government should have at the very least allocated the same percentage as the rest of the Europe. That is the main cause of the lack of competitiveness of Maltese farmers,” Agius said in his reply.

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