01 MAY 2002
The rows over the removal of levies in one of Maltas most sensitive sectors agriculture show no signs of dying down.
Indeed, it is one area where the political parties are at loggerheads, with the Labour Party insisting it will reintroduce protection for this area of industry, rather than implement a more humane timeframe of levy dismantling.
And although the government has pledged to plough Lm70 million over a period of time into the sector to help it make the necessary adjustments to come in line with EU membership, many producers are still complaining that they are in the dark about what is happening.
Their main gripe is that if they are going to compete in the international markets, the government must ensure the structures of support to help them do so must be in place.
Over the weekend MLP leader Alfred Sant said a Labour government would retain or reintroduce levies for the agricultural sector while still conforming with WTO requirements.
Asked how this would be done, MLP spokesman Noel Farrugia stressed that the WTO was aware that each country had its own special problems, notably a lack of resources and density of livestock.
"Yet the EU has is own special safeguards which Malta would have to adhere to if we join. That is why were against full membership," he said.
Mr Farrugia stressed that EU membership will only lead to an increase in the cost of living and leave Maltas farming community unable to compete with their European counterparts.
"Maltas protection by means of levies secures our island with fresh food and drink and is good both for local businesses and also for the consumers who get competitive prices," he said. "EU customers are paying towards the mandatory subsidies on products and we would have to do the same if we join.
"But unfortunately the government is failing to give the facts to the public."