ORGANIC FARMING - THE LOCAL SITUATION
Currently, organically grown vegetables and crops in the Maltese Islands are all but non-existent. As the consumer mentality changes from big, beautiful, tasteless and possibly toxic vegetables, to sweet, juicy, and healthy crops, a demand for organically grown crops is being born. In the last few years, consumers have become more aware of the health risks involved in consuming crops grown with unrestricted use of pesticides. This has lead to the opening of a number of health shops in Malta. However unfortunately, there are very few organically grown crops available locally. A market exists however the supply is non-existent.
One of the major setbacks faced by local farmers in organic farming is the way the pitkali system works. Currently all crops are sold in the same category, whether they are organically grown or whether they are coated with pesticides. Thus the growers are not rewarded for their extra effort by higher selling prices. As a result they cannot compete with other farmers who use conventional methods. Secondly, the produce has to be sold three times until it reaches the consumer; farmers sell to the pitkala, who sell to the greengrocers, who sell to us the consumers.
In order for this project to be successful, all products, whether vegetables, fruit, honey, or syrup, should be sold directly to the consumers. This could either be done on site, or else at another chosen place, such as the nursery. Potential clients would visit the nursery directly, and buy from the Foundation itself. People could be informed of the availability of the product by an effective public relations campaign, especially in the local media. A club could also be set up offering discounts to members. People could be brought to the fields for a site visit, especially schools. Groups of housewives could be brought on site in cooperation with various local councils (these usually are very active and frequently organize excursions for their citizens). This could be followed by a site visit around the Ghajn Tuffieha Conservation Area.
An increase in public awareness will automatically lead to a rise in demand of organically grown crops. As a result the price of such crops will rise leading to more farmers changing to organic methods of agriculture. This would lead to the success of the project, which originally was to show the Maltese that organic and green farming can indeed be profitable.
The Gaia Foundation