July 6, 2023
Malta AKIS | Updates on the different AKIS
The government is taking a central role in coordinating Malta’s AKIS – mainly through the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights (MAFA) and the designated AKIS CB i.e., the Agricultural Directorate.
Relationships between government bodies and the agricultural community are mainly defined around the RDP (Rural Development Programme) implementation activities. In general, knowledge flows are mainly driven by traditional methods of knowledge transfer, and yet to evolve towards circular and interactive models of knowledge flows. The need for training and advice amongst Malta’s farm and rural population is significant since many farms are managed on a part-time basis and management practices are learned informally from parents or other relatives. Traditionally farm advisory services in Malta have been provided by few private, mostly farmers’ based organizations.
In May 2020, MAFA launched its inhouse, accredited, Farm Advisory Service, AgriConnect aimed at providing free advice to farmers, on Conditionality, agri-environment climate measures, other rural development measures and the use of new technologies. Agri-Connect already offers other numerous services including:
- Consultancy regarding the adherence to the requirements resulting from Conditionality Requirements. This consists in on-site visits to land, livestock and farm; provision of reports to farmers on the findings of the visit, development of crop plans and fertiliser plans based on soil testing. Nutrient Management Plans and assistance for record keeping are also offered.
- Crop compensation calculations for loss of agricultural land. AgriConnect caters for the issuing of crop compensation losses in cases where agricultural land is lost due to infrastructural projects or in cases where land is expropriated by a Government entity.
- Advisory service on Soil Management Plans (SMP). AgriConnect caters for the issuing of crop compensation losses in cases where Agricultural land is lost due to infrastructural projects or in cases where land is expropriated by a Government entity.
- Organisation and delivery of training to farmers on the use of Plant Protection Products (PPP); Use of Nitrates; and obligations linked to the Agri Environmental Climate Measures (AECM).
- Front office services where farmers have access to all the service and schemes offered and accessible through the Agriculture Directorate.
Also in 2020, the MAFA also launched the Agricultural Research and Innovation Hub (AGRIHUB) aimed at creating the required framework and platform to support the agriculture sector through innovative agriculture applicative research, as well as serve as the basis for a coordinated approach between researchers and farmers to embark on a more sustainable form of food production and livestock farming.
Meanwhile, the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) and the University of Malta (UoM) are responsible for higher education and agricultural research; however significant gaps are noted in the provision of the required certified local experts/advisors by these institutions.
For this Malta’s 2021 CAP Strategic Plan to be implemented from 2023 to 2027, will aim to ensure a more coordinated approach to knowledge transfer, innovation and digitalisation in Malta among key actors such as the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST), Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST), University of Malta, Agriculture Directorate, other private advisors who assist in the drafting of applications, and entities responsible for setting up training courses aimed at supporting arable land farmers and livestock breeders.
There are no advisory infrastructures yet, however, the need for a national digital hub/platform for centralized collection of agricultural data knowledge sharing and the provision of tailored advisory services is acknowledged. Technical and financial support is required for such an endeavor.
The current knowledge transfer and advisory set-up in Malta requires better consolidation. A more coordinated and collaborative approach is required to move the Maltese AKIS towards a real system of innovation.
AKIS Coordination Bodies
The designated AKIS CB i.e. the Agricultural Directorate is the main regulator of the agricultural sector, responsible for:
- Recognizing and supporting producers’ organizations;
- Providing extensive services and specialized technical advice;
- Promoting continuous dialogue with farmers;
- Promoting sustainable agriculture and methods of food production.
In the recent years, the directorate has been reorganized to ensure that it continues to function as a regulator of the sector whilst at the same time be able to develop new products for the sector through its research and development arm and offer an efficient service through its advisory and extension services. The Agriculture Directorate’s three main pillars are AgriHub, AgriConnect and AgriKwalità, based on which it aims at a holistic approach on the local agricultural sector.
Through AgriHub, the Directorate aims to keep abreast with the latest research and technological advances whilst valorizing the Maltese agriculture and its niche products, thus remaining competitive in this continuously evolving sector. The AgriHub research is focused on the main agricultural products of the Maltese islands, and results obtained are communicated to the stakeholders through organized information sessions held by the Directorate.
Meanwhile, AgriConnect – the government’s Farm Advisory Service – serves as a bridge between farmers and AgriHub to make sure that the best technical advice is given for the farmers’ specific needs. Farmers and stakeholders have the facility to visit one of the Agriconnect Offices and make use of the services offered such as the drawing up of farm management plans, soil sampling, guidance on farm compliance and the management of ongoing schemes.
Further, the directorate carries out farmer inspections to ensure compliance with local and EU regulations. The inspections which fall within the AgriKwalita’ remit, guarantee that local produce/products which are processed for the quality mark certification, bear the highest quality, safeguard the environment, and ensure sustainable farming practices.
The Agriculture Directorate also provides laboratory services to determine soil quality and fertility as well as provide the basis for the recommendations provided in, for example, soil management plans and fertilizer plans as required by the Nitrates Action Programme Regulations.
Significant progress is required for the consolidation of the directorate’s role as Malta’s AKIS CB.
CAP Strategic Plan Priorities
Malta submitted its first proposal for a CAP Strategic Plan on 28 December 2021, after consultation with stakeholders. On 10 November 2022, Malta submitted a revised proposal, addressing the Commission’s observations on the first draft. The Commission approved this proposal on 30 November 2022. Some of the main priorities of the plan include the following:
- Economic Sustainability
- Investments to stabilise farmers’ income to increase their resilience, ensure continued management of agricultural landscapes and the survival of key farming sectors. Focus will also be put on reducing the income gap between agriculture and other sectors of the economy.
- Malta will also support investments in the processing and marketing of agricultural products, increasing their added value and improving their quality, as well as investments in infrastructure which are beneficial to the agricultural sector, such as the modernisation of roads in rural areas and improved farm waste management.
- Specific sectors undergoing difficulties, such as beef, dairy, sheep and tomatoes, will benefit from such investments to ensure that they remain sustainable and to maintain a level of food security.
- Specific investments are also aimed at precision livestock farming, construction of greenhouses, or diversification into new and potential niche sectors and into non-agricultural economic activities.
2. Environmental sustainability
- The conversion to organic farming is one of the main commitments, as Malta has the lowest share in the EU and it has to contribute to the Green Deal targets. Malta is aiming to increase the share of organic farming from the current 66 hectares to 272 hectares by 2027.
- Moreover, the P lan will also introduce eco-schemes, under which farmers are supported for voluntary practices going beyond the minimum legal requirements in terms of climate and the environment. Malta has three eco-schemes, for which over EUR 10 million are allocated to encourage farmers to adopt a more sustainable approach to pest controls (by encouraging alternative pest control measures), to enhance and restore biodiversity and pollination and to incentivize farmers to shift to biodegradable mulch in conventional agriculture instead of the use of plastics.
- Noting the significance of water scarcity issues, investments for improved water storage, recycling, water collection and treatment are also foreseen.
- Investments are also planned to protect and conserve some indigenous species, such as the Maltese black chicken, the Maltese ox and some indigenous trees, such as the carob tree and the mulberry tree.
3. Social sustainability
- Malta has an ageing farm population with young farmers facing numerous barriers to start their
agricultural activity, such as difficulties in accessing land, obtaining financial assistance and
accessing markets. Therefore, Malta is dedicating support to help young farmers set-up to create
a successful business in the agricultural sector, either from the beginning or by taking over an existing holding.
- The Plan will aim to ensure a more coordinated approach to knowledge transfer, innovation and digitalization in Malta among key actors.
5. Other key focus areas:
- Additionally, to mitigate the difficult times beekeepers are facing due to beehive invasions, the Plan foresees various remedial actions. For example, it will train beekeepers on how to deal with beehive invaders/pests. It will also support investments to fight beehive invaders, diseases and support breeder boxes on farms.
- Malta is also committed to improving animal welfare by introducing an intervention that will reduce the density of broiler hens during the growing period on the farm. The Plan will also help farmers through a number of incentives to apply more stringent animal welfare standards than the mandatory levels. Malta will support investments that can help detect diseases in livestock resulting in better targeted treatment and a reduction in the reliance on antimicrobials.
Find the full AKIS country report here.