Maltese and Cypriot farmers were the only ones in Europe not to have had their pesticide spraying equipment inspected by the authorities in 2016, according to a recent report.

The European Commission’s latest report to the European Parliament on Member States’ progress on implementing sustainable pesticide use singles out the two countries as still failing to inspect sprayers.

The research was done in 2016.

Brussels said all 26 other Member States had set up inspection systems and national authorities had checked about 900,000 sprayers by the 2016 deadline.

EU law requires that Member States ensure that pesticide application equipment, such as field and orchard sprayers, is inspected at regular intervals to ensure that it falls within the required parameters.

The issue of excessive pesticide use, which is potentially dangerous to consumers, was flagged by the Times of Malta last year in a series of reports.

As much as 20 per cent of the products tested last year were found to contain excessive chemical residue.

And just last week, Times of Malta also reported that 15 farmers are facing court action for excessive pesticide use.

According to the European Commission report, Member States had no reliable data on the total number of sprayers in use, but based on their own estimates, up to half of the sprayers in the EU had not been tested by the 2016 deadline. The commission said over 95 per cent of the estimated sprayers had not been tested by the deadline in Latvia and Greece and 70 per cent in Italy.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Finland, on the other hand, reported that close to all their farmers’ equipment had been tested.

Positives

On the positive side, Malta was also singled out for some good practices, including having introduced rules that required farmers to inform their neighbours when they intended to spray pesticides.

The island was also among those countries that introduced guidelines for protecting agricultural workers from the adverse effects of pesticide application.

The Commission pointed out that Malta had no publicly-funded systems in place for forecasting, warning and ensuring early diagnosis with regard to pest and disease control.

Nor were there established economic thresholds to help farmers with decision making when dealing with infestations.

IT tools were now available for such purposes on official websites, it noted.

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