22 AUGUST 2001

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Malta Agriculture Lobby preoccupied over removal of levies

The Malta Agriculture Lobby said it was preoccupied with the current situation prevailing in Malta's Agriculture Industry. Following several press releases from different quarters it feels that it has to add its voice, in its capacity as a professional organisation, in an unequivocal manner:

"The Malta Agriculture Lobby has protested on several occasions with the competent authorities at the way they have conducted consultations in this important and sensitive sector.

"There is never enough time for feedback from the grassroots, the experts, and other consultants so that we would be able to present a common acceptable front, in the interest of Malta's Agriculture Industry and our thousands of loyal consumers, both locally and abroad."

The Malta Agriculture Lobby is calling on MEUSAC to accept a correction of the minutes circulated (relating to MEUSAC's 50 Meeting – out of which only three were dedicated to agriculture), and it would be constrained to review its position within MEUSAC.

The Malta Agriculture Lobby informed its members, affiliated organisation, and the general public that it does not agree with Government's change of heart on the removal of levies. The Special Measures being contemplated by Government should not be tied to the sector's acceptance of the removal of levies. The financial and other measures are required because the sector has to restructure and upgrade in a micro economy while carrying out its multifunctional role.

The Malta Agriculture Lobby is committed to quality, sustainability, food safety, and traceability, and it feels that it has to pronounce itself in the interest of the sector and consumers.

The produce that the primary sector is putting on the market or is offering to the processing segment of agriculture is of prime quality with an impeccable palate and taste, and this is what we shall be building on in the interest of all concerned.

It is incorrect to say that Malta is obliged to review its levy system irrespective of whether it joins the EU or not. Currently Malta is following the same tactics that the EU is taking at WTO. Malta could take other measures, including increasing protection to the level allowable in its circumstances.

The Malta Agriculture Lobby, through its affiliation with IFAP, the only global farmers' organisation, is monitoring very closely the WTO negotiations and is expecting to see a change in Government's tactics at the Ministerial Meeting in Doha, Qatar between the 9 & 13 November 2001, otherwise Malta's position could be prejudiced permanently.

The Malta Agriculture Lobby said it was committed to ensure the survival and betterment of all who live by and on the land. Other important sectors like the environment and tourism depend on agriculture's continuity. Most of all we acknowledge the importance of providing consumers with only the best produce. Towards this end, we are committed to ensure that a new supply-chain management system empowering both farmers and consumers, while ensuring quality, food safety, traceability, and accountability is put in place in a very short time."

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt