The experience carried on during the first year has permitted, to a great number of very small farms, to reach the European market asking for EurepGAP (GlobalG.A.P.) voluntary certification for potato. Potato in Malta is a strategic product traditionally exported to the main north European markets (mainly The Netherland).
Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environmen and Climate Change - Directorate of Agriculture - MaltaLead applicant
The ultimate aim of the Agriculture Directorate is to assist local farmers and breeders to produce fresh products of the highest quality. The Directorate constantly tries to promote the introduction of improved methods of production in agriculture, horticulture and animal produdcts. Special emphasis is made on the protection of the health of both the producer and the consumer and the safeguarding of the rural environment.
Agriculture Coperative Limited - MaltaInitiative partner
Technical assistance to the farmers; pesticides, fertilizers and others means selling; handling and export of potatoes.
International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies/ Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari - ItalyInitiative partner
The Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (MAIB) is a Centre for post-graduate training, applied scientific research and design of in-loco partnership actions in the framework of the international cooperation programmes. It works in four thematic areas:
Innovative rules as good tools for improving Maltese potato export and farmer's production and profitability. The intiative was aimed to enhance food safety and good agricultural practices in the specific sector of potato production in Malta, a strategic crop for the Maltese agriculture, allowing to reach the most important traders on the international market. This specific initiative respond to Feeding Knowledge because it respond to local farmers needs in terms of productivity and profitability enhancement.
The contribution of this specific initiative to Feeding Knowledge Programme is a responce to local needs of Maltese potato growers in terms of enhancing the crop production, improve market position, increase the farmers incomes, and acquiering high standards.
The initiative has had a major cultural impact on the above mentioned Maltese potato growers who have gradually converted the method of cultivation from conventional to integrated pest management (low pesticides usage, balanced fertilization, correct management and disposal of plastics and other waste). The effect of the implementation of the Good Agricultural Practices (G.A.P.) on potato production, as an applicative method, has allowed to obtain safe products in a safe environment, while ensuring good levels of profitability thanks to the reaching of the main European markets.
The Maltese Agriculture shows progressive and alarming regression of production surfaces: currently 10,148 hectares (of which 9,656 hectares arable land) are managed and cultivated. One of the most important features of Maltese agriculture is also represented by the enormous fragmentation and pulverization of land property. One of the main crop is potato, cultivated on a total surface around 1,150 hectars. Workforce is rapresented by 14,000 workers, mainly part-time (12,500 units). It means that the agricultural sector requires technical assistance and continuous updating on the voluntary and compulsory European rules.
Potatoi is a particularly strategic crop that has an early harvest due to the specific conditions that allow t obtain early production carrying on an image of Malta; so there is a great interest in Malta to continue in exporting potato and preserving the ways on how to protect producers communities and production areas.
At the first year (2004) the initiative has helped to implement the EurepGAP Protocol to a good number of Maltese farmers (less than 100 growers), associated in 3 big producers groups. They have obtained the voluntary certification EurepGAP in Option 2, allowing to reach the international market represented by the big distribution chains. In subsequent years, an increased number of growers has been involved in the voluntary certification and around 100% of the exported potatoes from Malta are currently under certification for a total ammount of 8,000 tons exported per year.
Our initiative started from the potato growers and traders need to reach the traditional north European market for which the adaptation to international voluntary protocol named EurepGAP (GLOBALG.A.P.) was required as prerequirement for continuing to supply and sell potato.
So the main beneficiaries of the initiative were indeed potato growers and traders.
People involved in training and EurepGAP (GLOBALG.A.P.) Protocol implementation activities were:
- 400 farmers that were helped during their field activities, also in the application of the protocol and in applying good agricultural practices in the field;
- 3 traders were helped in the application of good manifacturing practices in potato handling;
- 30 workers of potatoes packhouses were helped in the application of correct rules for workers security and food safety management.
During the first two years around the 80% of Maltese potatoes was achieved and recently 100% of this production is exported.
The Ministry of Rural Affair and Environment (MRAE) officials, supervised and coordinated by CIHEAM-MAIB experts, have provided technical assistance and training of Maltese farmers and traders.
In particular were involved:
- n. 7 technicians from the Extension Service of MRAE for the correct implementation of Good Agricultural Practices on potato in the field;
- n. 2 experts in quality, safety and traceability of Mediterranean fresh products, from CIHEAM-MAIB for training on GAP, GMP, Food Safety, traceability and EurepGAP Protocol implementation in the farms and packing houses;
- Private consultants;
- 400 farmers and traders;
- An accredited Certification Body.
The main difficulty in the implementation of the new protocol was related to the great number of very small and non professional producers to be involved in the initiative.
At the beginning, the grower's approach to the new rules were not completely complying, due to their strong connection to tradition and old way of thinking.
Several meetings with potato growers and traders were held during all the implementation period in order to overcome their firm antique beliefs and to define the best way to ride out the difficulties on field.
Also potato grower's need to continue to be present at the international market was helpful for us in order to make them realise that they need to implement GAP and also new protocol. A participatory approach and the implemementation of the new protocol later on, helped the potato growers to adapt more easily to the regulations that were obligatory during the adhesion phase in the European Union.
This experience has permitted a better definition of political guidelines. Than EurepGAP (GlobalGAP) Protocol has permitted, to a great number of farmers, to better manage potato cropping, applying low impact techniques.
Implemented techniques consist in:
- pesticides use reduction (used only and if necessary according to field monitoring system for pest and desease);
- adequate fertilization (according to a fertilization plan based on soil elements contents and potato cropping need);
- empty pesticides containers, plastics and other waste collecting and disposal according to EU rules
- water usage rationalization and reduction
- Care and maintenance of landscape which made it more environmentaly equilibrate
The initiative has permitted to implement and strengthen an enduring low impact cultivation system for potato in Malta. This also permitted to the Maltese growers (not only potato growers) to be in line with the new EU regulations related to the application of integrated pest management method, traceability, food safety management, environmental respect, and as we mentioned before, all this permitted to stay on the international market having a primary role. This initiative has involved potato growers and traders from Malta and Gozo and it could be used as a model to be applied to all the Mediterranean basin countries.
This experience was one of the basic elements that helped the definition of measures for the application of EU rural development policies.
A methodology was not followed in the terms of classic way of reults and initiative dissemination. From the beginning our dissemination mode was to organise meetings with farmers, growers, traders and all the stakeholders in order to train, update and inform them about the status of Protocol application in Malta and Gozo and to give them the possibility to have new contacts, new information and to connect with each other. In the following years all this led to implementation of EurepGAP Protocol in increasing number of farms. Farmer's cooperatives and organisations contributed to the dissemination of our activities among their associates. Considering the small communities in Malta, the communication was addressed to sensitize the whole community.