Malta’s farming sector has had to change rapidly over the last few decades with the advent of new technologies and European products flooding the market, but one issue modern Maltese farmers regularly receive criticism for is their use of pesticides in local produce.
To give people a better insight into what the reality is for Maltese farmers, environmental NGO Friends Of The Earth have released a number of videos as part of the ‘Conversations With Maltese Farmers’ series.
“Paul is a local farmer working in the limits of Rabat. He has been farming from a very young age since when he used to help out his father in the fields. At the age of 18 he went off to work in the hotel industry but ultimately returned to his true passion at age 36. He has been working a full-time farmer for 12 years now and he loves his work. He is a conventional farmer and grows mainly carrots, potatoes and strawberries.”
Pictured above: Paul Portelli, hard at work in his fields in the limits of Rabat
In one of the latest episodes, a full-time farmer from Rabat, Paul Portelli, explains exactly why farmers like him use pesticides
“A lot of consumers tell you: ‘the produce of Malta is full of pesticides’,” says Paul in the video.
“I would like to invite them and tell them: when a farmer sprays pesticides, it’s just like when you get sick and you need to go to the doctor. No one is going to spray if they don’t have a reason to – a litre of pesticide can cost €120 or €150 itself, and if every farmer could, they would like to avoid it. However, sometimes you just can’t,” he says.
“To be clear,” he continues, “no farmer wakes up in the morning and says ‘today I’m spraying’. No; I’ll go to my produce, and if I see a leaf that’s been bitten, I’ll search around my field and I might see six or seven leaves that have been bitten. What I do is I take photos or monitor them in some way, and I’ll go the next day. And from six bitten leaves you might have seven, and then you have an infestation and you need to spray.”
He noted that farmers have few alternatives to combat insect infestations that begin to take over their fields
“Maybe the infestation passes by itself,” he says, “or maybe you use a weaker pesticide – but at the end of the day, if you need to spray…”
However, he made it clear that Maltese farmers were well aware of the dangers of pesticides and how to properly use them.
“We’ve been to courses to learn how to spray, and what’s important is to leave the required time as indicated so the product is safe for the consumer,” he said.
He ended by saying Maltese farmers need to regain the trust of Maltese consumers, and that he was happy to invite any consumer to his fields to let them see how exactly Maltese produce is grown, so they can truly see where their food is coming from.