Farmers who expressed concern over swathes of arable land in Marsaxlokk being sold for recreational purposes say their fears have been realised.

In 2021, around 20 farmers in Marnisi, off Marsaxlokk, warned about the fate of some 300 tumoli of farmland in the area.

They said they were being approached to either buy the land they leased for €65,000 a tumolo, accept a couple of thousands of euros to leave, or open a court case. Two years on, some farmers moved out, others settled for a much smaller piece of land, while very few stood firm.

When Times of Malta visited the site with farmers this month, they flagged new pathways cutting through agricultural land, and soil removed in other places to create better access. A pond that they said was meant for hunting or trapping purposes was also built in one field.

A new path built to create access through fields once used to grow food.A new path built to create access through fields once used to grow food.

They previously argued that evicting farmers from arable land to sell it off for recreational purposes – a trend that became quite popular recently – would not only negatively impact the ecosystem and strip farmers of their livelihood, but also kill off market competition.

A drop in local produce (usually sold at lower prices), would see an increase in prices of produce imported from abroad, they had warned. They explained that when land is sold for recreational purposes, an area previously tilled by one farmer would be split in several parcels and sold to multiple buyers.

Malcolm Borg, who heads Għaqda Bdiewa Maltin, fears that the loss of arable land to recreational purposes is not limited to the Marnisi area.

Interview with Malcolm Borg, head, Għaqda Bdiewa Maltin. Video: Jonathan Borg

“Around two years ago, there was a push to start evicting farmers from this area, and unfortunately, our biggest fears are coming to fruition. In some way or another, farmers are being pushed out of the land they till, the land is being sold for recreational purposes with the new owners requiring access and amenities.

“Apart from the impact on the arable land itself and the landscape, land that was previously tilled nowadays no longer forms part of Malta’s food chain, impacting the country’s food security. This is happening everywhere across the islands, and we are running out of time.”

This is happening everywhere across the islands, and we are running out of time- Malcolm Borg, head of Għaqda Bdiewa Maltin

Farmers who spoke to Times of Malta said they could not afford to buy the land at €65,000 a tumolo and doubted they would even turn a profit of €65,000 from one tumolo throughout their lifetime.

Young farmers often express concern over the difficulty to find land they can afford to lease, or buy, to till. When Times of Malta asked young farmers what an affordable price per tumolo would be, the highest figure cited was €20,000.

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