MaltaToday | 13 August 2008

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NEWS | Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Organic farming on the decline

Malta saw a decrease of 14% in land cultivated for organic farming between 2006 and 2007.
At the end of 2007 there were only 12 certified producers of organic products in the Maltese islands, covering 17.3 hectares – a sheer 0.17% of utilised agricultural land in Malta.
The figures emerge from the environmental indicators published by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.
The document attributes the decline in organic agriculture mainly to a decrease in land used for olive plantations.
Organic farming is widely encouraged in Europe because it favours renewable resources and recycling by respecting natural pest control, and avoiding the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilisers, growth hormones, antibiotics or gene manipulations.
It is estimated that 40% of this land is used for the production of olives, 23% for the production of fruit and berries, 12% for the production of vegetables, melons and strawberries and 10% for the production of grapes.
John Portelli, public relations officer of the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement (MOAM) pointed out that while the demand for organic products is on the increase, the supply remains too low.
“There is a big demand from people that have suffered or are suffering from cancer and other illnesses such as allergies but the supply remains too low.”
Portelli pointed out that unlike conventional farmers organic farmers have to pay a number of costs related to certification. Legally, anyone claiming to be producing organic products cannot do so without being certified by the Malta Standards Authority.
“To be certified you need to pay circa €550 per year if you have six tumuli of land,” Portelli pointed out.
Although part of the costs are recovered through grants, the cost is still forbidding. Portelli also compared the strict approach towards organic farming and the lax attitude towards conventional farmers.
“Conventional farmers are not checked since there is no inspectorate within the agriculture department,” Portelli told MaltaToday.

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