During another Agriculture and Fisheries Council Meeting, Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri said that direct payments are needed to provide income stability for such a volatile sector. He emphasised the importance that direct payments continue to sustain farming activities in Malta, especially since its entire territory is considered an area with natural constraints under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Coupled support is also key to the survival of certain sectors. Clint Camilleri said that he believes that such an essential tool must be kept and improved by introducing further flexibility to allow member states to design schemes that are best suited to address the sector’s specific needs. This will better contribute to meeting CAP objectives and add value to this policy.
Complementing this, member states should have more flexibility concerning the decisions on financing, such payments. The Future CAP needs to continue helping the Maltese Government to sustain and preserve the sensitive socio-economic sub-sectors of tomatoes for processing, dairy and sheep, besides providing effective income support at the right level for the wider farming sector.
Clint Camilleri highlighted that it is important that before we burden farmers with additional obligations to obtain progress in environmental issues, we should first take stock of the crucial part they are already playing for the environment as part of their existing activity. Besides providing high quality and safe food, Maltese farmers fulfil the vital role of safeguarding the countryside and rural landscapes through their activity. Clint Camilleri explained that imposing further obligations could precipitate the current trend which has brought about the departure from the sector of professional and capable farmers to the detriment of the preservation of rural areas. In this regard, it is unfortunate that in territories with natural constraints like that in Malta – where the opportunity cost of land is high – experience shows that it is extremely difficult to achieve the right dose of incentives to achieve the uptake of such voluntary environmental measures without a matching financial aid.
Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri emphasised the importance of having a strong and simplified second pillar that includes rural investment support especially for Malta, given the nature of our agricultural sector. He explained that one way to simplify the rural development policy is by granting more flexibility to member states to be able to adapt measures to the local scenario. For this reason, it is important to avoid having compulsory measures and let member states decide how to reach their targets, stressed Clint Camilleri.
The Parliamentary Secretary added that in the future we should be able to adequately support entrepreneurship and diversification of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises especially small family farms. There should also be investment opportunities aimed at fostering jobs, generating added value, and attracting young farmers to the sector.