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Killing local produce will endanger people's health, expert warns

Malta is 'vulnerable' when it comes to food security

Malta does not have enough agricultural spaces and farmers to work the land. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Malta does not have enough agricultural spaces and farmers to work the land. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Killing farming by not consuming local produce will endanger people’s health and the environment, especially considering the island is not self-sufficient, according to anthropologist Rachel Radmilli.

“Malta is an island of contradictions – while most of us feel they are leading a good life and living comfortably, we do not realise how vulnerable we really are when it comes to food security,” she told the Times of Malta ahead of a conference on food rights, privilege and security.

Read: Give students locally-grown fruit and veg, farmers urge

“While we are already not self-sufficient when it comes to the production of fruit and vegetables as we do not have enough agricultural space and farmers to work the land, the situation could get worse if there was some big storm or a transportation glitch that halted food importation.”

This lack of self-sufficiency dates back centuries, and Malta used to import food even during the Knights’ era. Over the years, the local population continued to grow while the number of farmers decreased, she said.

Read: Farmers isolated from discussion about food production

Malta recently witnessed a milk scarcity and also empty supermarket shelves when some months ago the ferry from Sicily could not operate because of adverse weather conditions.

This is an island of contradictions

Around the 1990s, news of Middle Eastern wars also sent people scurrying to supermarkets to stock up on oil and sugar.

“However, despite our vulnerability, we are not encouraging local growers. Most recently, the misuse of pesticides by a couple of growers tarnished the reputation of farmers in general,” Ms Radmilli said.

“Meanwhile, young farmers are not feeling very encouraged and if consumers do not support them, they will not be able to make a living, meaning they could eventually abandon farming all together.”

Some young farmers were working hard to create more awareness, advocating local seasonal agricultural produce among others.

“If we kill farming by not consuming local produce, we are endangering our own health and environment. We, therefore, need to create a demand for local clean food,” she added.

Malta is also an island of contradictions in that we did not always realise that certain parts of the population were at risk of, or had fallen below the poverty line, she said.

Since vulnerable families could barely make ends meet, struggling to cover rent expenses and bills, they resorted to unhealthy, but cheap food. This could, of course, set them down a very dangerous spiral as they would experience health problems in the future, the anthropologist noted.

Ms Radmilli will be participating at the President’s Foundation for the Well-being of Society’s third national conference on well-being.

The event will be held on October 16 at 9am. More information on pfws.opr@gov.mt or call on 2148 4462.

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