Malta’s beloved kunserva tomato paste faces a bleak future unless an EU-wide farmer support program is amended, agricultural campaigners have warned.
Former MEP candidate Peter Agius said that Maltese kunserva will almost certainly be replaced with mass produced tomato paste and other large scale products if proposed changes to the EU’s agricultural policy are not revised.
He was referring to the Voluntary Coupled Support provisions of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy which were recently tweaked.
The new version of the policy, known as the EU farm strategy, is yet to be formally adopted but in its current form could see Maltese farmers lose out on an annual €3million in aid which, in part, targets tomato growers. Now this cash could fall to just €650,000 every year, split between the dairy, beef, sheep and tomato processing sectors.
Agius says that the changes do not take into consideration the geographic limitations of Malta’s farm land and could see local growers left out completely.
A so-called ‘trialogue’ - negotiation between the European Parliament, Commission, and Council - will be held this week to debate changes to the policy.
Agius said he has written in to the MEP rapporteur spearheading the reform in the European Parliament to flag local farmers’ concerns.
Local tomato growers have already warned that kunserva production is becoming increasingly sticky.
Back in February an association of farmers threatened to drastically cut the amount of tomatoes they supply to kunserva processors if the “pittance” they receive for their produce is not improved.
At the time, the Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi had also warned that the small payment they receive includes a heavy EU subsidy that is only guaranteed until the end of this year.
Malcolm Borg who heads the farmers’ association said he is hopeful the funds will be retained.
However, if these were to fall through, he doubts local tomato processor would be in a position to make up for the subsidy the farmers currently receive through this EU aid.
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