Updated 3.30pm with government's comments

Farmers are reported to have worked together to sell their produce on Monday morning after most of the middlemen, who traditionally auction fruit and vegetables to sellers, had their licences suspended.

The Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation (MaYA) said the farmers managed to avert the “total chaos” predicted at the Pitkalija market in the early hours.

The foundation said they witnessed farmers working together, but that the disruption from the Pitkala Association “didn’t come without losses” and that the full consequences of the situation were still to be fully evaluated. 

“The situation would have also been worse had there not been a dedicated ministry with a sufficient set of decision-makers to intervene and assist in a timely and decisive manner.”

Times of Malta reported that all the registered middlemen, who auction their produce to resellers, had their licences suspended.

The pitkalija opens twice a week and sees hundreds of farmers drop off their fresh produce, which is then auctioned off to supermarkets, grocers and hawkers.

Without the licenced pitkala, farmers would have to sell the produce themselves at the market.

Food waste main concern

A spokesperson of the foundation, Jeanette Borg, said the Farmers’ Central Cooperative Ltd (FCCS) played an important role in organising a market at MFCC car park in Ta’ Qali in the early hours of Monday. 

FCCS is currently prevented from operating inside the Pitkalija premises through a court order. FCCS is made up of a number of other farmers’ cooperatives who altogether represent over 26 per cent of the produce sold at the Pitkali.

FCCS managed the produce of their members as well as some produce of other farmers who are not members, she said.

Farmers and growers who are not members of FCCS met outside the Pitkali premises and traded their produce together, directly to the vendors.

“There were the sellers and vendors who had no middlemen in between, which did cause a bit of chaos, but farmers worked and collaborated to sell their produce,” she said. 

Borg said that over the weekend, a large number of farmers also managed to sell their produce directly from their fields or by teaming up. Their main concern was food waste. 

“No one can afford to waste their produce, the hard work and thousands of euros of input," she said.

“Trading happened, with more hard work and effort, but it happened. I believe today no consumer will feel the shortage of local produce at their supermarket.”

Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi posted on social media that this morning's market saw farmers selling their produce at reasonable prices. 

Jan Bonello, who represents pitkala middlemen, said that none were present on Monday due to their licences being suspended but that some issues were raised.

“Our job is to establish the market place of each item, and we are there to obtain the best possible price for the farmer,” he said. 

He said he had heard there were some issues when it came to the pricing of produce and that there was a large fluctuation of prices.

Government: situation under control

The government said in a statement late on Monday afternoon that farmers managed to sell their produce without any waste.

Pitkalija opened at around 2am, with farmers slowly trickling in to sell products, the Agriculture Ministry said.

"It was a process without any chaos and the situation was under control."

The ministry praised the farmers for their resilience and ability to adapt to the situation and promised to continue supporting and protecting their livelihood.

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