Updated 6.30pm with farmers' demands

Tractors from across the country drove from Ta' Qali to Valletta in a protest against EU rules for the second time in two weeks.

Carrying placards with messages like 'Take care of us or you'll go hungry', 'No farmers, no food, no future', and 'Farmers gone? Eat your money', they honked horns as they made their way to Valletta, each tractor proudly boasting a Malta flag.

Farmers say the EU rules mean there is an unfair playing field for local products, who face competition from imported foods. And they are calling on the government to do more to protect them.

Farmers speak out about why they are protesting. Video: Karl Andrew Micallef

The tractors came from all over - including from Gozo - creating an unusual sight on Gozo Channel vessels.

Tractors on a Gozo Channel vessel. Photo: Celestino Cini, FacebookTractors on a Gozo Channel vessel. Photo: Celestino Cini, Facebook

Tractors and other farming vehicles lined up one after another and drove at a brisk walking pace. The convoy was over 20 minutes long.

Farmers passed through some of Malta's busiest roads en route to the Valletta waterfront, driving through the Central Link road, Mrieħel bypass, Marsa-Ħamrun bypass and the Marsa Junction.

Farmers gather at the demonstration point at the Valletta waterfront. Photo: Jonathan BorgFarmers gather at the demonstration point at the Valletta waterfront. Photo: Jonathan Borg

When the convoy reached the offices of the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority, some farmers hopped out of their vehicles for a quick detour.

After taping signs reading "we are here to safeguard their food" and "no farmers, no food, no future" to the MCCAA's door, they got back into their tractors and proceeded to Valletta.


Farmers stick signs to the MCCAA door. Video: Jonathan Borg

The MCCAA is the authority tasked with overseeing the amount of pesticide and fertilizer in Maltese agricultural products. Farmers say the authority should carry out the same checks on products coming from foreign, and especially non-EU, countries. 

They also met with Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo, who said he was there in solidarity with the farmers. Shadow Agriculture Minister Toni Bezzina also said he backed the farmers, saying "it does not make sense to put our country in the same categories as other countries, with much larger resources and land than ours".

Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo meets with farmers at Valletta Waterfront. Photo: Chris Sant FournierAgriculture Minister Anton Refalo meets with farmers at Valletta Waterfront. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

What do farmers want? 

Farmer Joseph Muscat said there had to be more control on products coming from abroad which were sometimes also sold as local.

And farmer Marthese Cortiz said the Maltese government had voted against farmers so they had to come out and protest.

Farmers are upset with EU trade deals that remove or reduce barriers for non-EU agricultural products.

Tractors head through Floriana as they approach their final destination. Video: Jonathan Borg

They are also against state aid rules that limit government support, and EU rules that reward farmers for leaving fields fallow - a technique to allow land to recover - saying this was an incentive to landowners to keep land unproductive.

Farmers also say  European legislation intended to make farming more environmentally friendly is being introduced too quickly and without the necessary support.

Malcolm Borg explaining the farmers' proposals. Video: Daniel Ellul

During Thursday's protest, farmers presented a list of five requests to the government. They say implementing those changes, which range from providing subsidies for things like animal feed to playing hardball with the EU to block imports of non-EU foodstuffs competing directly with local products, would ensure they are not priced out of business.  

Earlier in February, Maltese farmers joined their European counterparts in protest at EU regulations they feel undermine their livelihoods.

On Thursday, they are expected to present the Maltese government with five proposals they believe could lessen the blow of their regulations.

The Malta protests are organised by the Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi and with the backing of various organisations related to food production.

Out in full force: Maltese farmers warn against EU regulations they fear will destroy local agriculture. Video: Chris Sant Fournier

"Whilst reiterating the local food producers’ opposition to the European Union’s current framework and future ambitions that are seriously threatening the livelihoods of farmers, the organisation will now be making several proposals to the government to assist in the buffering of the impact of such EU regulations and plans," a statement by Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi said.

Farmers' lobby president Malcolm Borg said that should the government implement the proposals, food producers would be able to withstand the impact of the new EU rules

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