Fourth National Report to the cbd – malta executive Summary

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3.0 Sectoral and cross-sectoral integration or mainstreaming of biodiversity considerations

In view of the ongoing process of developing Malta NBSAP, this chapter provides an overview of implemented and planned sectoral measures that, positively impact, whether directly or indirectly Malta’s Biodiversity.

3.1 Agriculture & Rural Development

[More information on this Section of the Report is available at - and also from MRRA’s Annual report for 2008]

Agriculture and biodiversity are inexorably interlinked. Whereas biodiversity underpins agriculture productivity, agroecosystems can provide an important habitat for many native species particularly those that rely on farmed land for their survival (e.g. provision of food, availability of a refuge). Farmed land in Malta and associated rural structures, such as rubble walls, form an integral part of the landscape and further serve as an essential ecological corridor between fragmented semi-natural habitats. Being the main land user in the Maltese Islands (amounting to 51% of land cover based on Land CORINE Cover Data of 2006) reflects the importance that farming has for Malta’s natural environment.

Although the agriculture sector contributes little towards the domestic economy (2.6% to the GDP in 2005), it nonetheless imparts the country some degree of self-sufficiency in terms of food security. The various farming practices also contribute to the maintenance of the rural character and countryside recreation. In addition, this sector’s potential to enhance other more economically prolific sectors, such as tourism, has been acknowledged. Strengths, Weakness and Needs of the Agriculture Sector in Malta have been documented (see Rural Development Strategy for Malta 2007-2013).

The 2005 State of the Environment Report identifies land abandonment, farm intensification, poor farming practices and fragmentation of ownership as the “most critical land-related agro-environment issues”. The agriculture sector in Malta contributes around 5 % of the total national greenhouse gas emissions. The mean annual GHG emissions from the agriculture sector, as reported in Malta’s GHG Inventory covering the time series 1990 to 2007 (MEPA 2009), amount to 68.0 Gg CO2 equivalence. Enteric fermentation is the major source of GHG emissions, followed by the emissions from manure management. The contribution from agriculture soils is relatively small and amounts to about 5 Gg CO2 equivalence annually.

Malta’s Rural Development Plan for 2007-2013 (section acknowledges the importance of harmonising agricultural practices with biodiversity conservation in Natura 2000 sites. This need is evident when considering the amount of agricultural land that falls within Natura 2000 sites in Malta – “Therefore, in order to preserve the natural environment and landscape, and to protect and improve natural resources, as required by Natura 2000 designation, agricultural practices within such sites need to be brought in line with environmental requirements. In order to diminish the loss of biodiversity till the year 2010, protection and management plans in respect of Natura 2000 sites should be implemented. These will aid to increase the quality of life in rural areas by identifying and avoiding tendencies that lead to ecological, economic and social decline.”

In an effort to harmonise agriculture activities with biodiversity conservation in protected areas, the project "Integration of environmental considerations into Malta's agriculture on the basis of the IRENA operation" funded under Malta's Rural Development Plan (RDP 2004-2006) was initiated in January 2007 and ended in July 2008. This project aimed to examine and improve the performance of the different types of farming systems and agricultural land management practices in the protected northwest coastal cliffs area of Malta on the basis of the IRENA approach. The IRENA project analysed the applicability of 35 indicators to the Maltese Islands and the data available. Recommendations were given as to how certain indicators can be worked out for Malta.

3.1.1 Rural Development

National Rural Development Plans (RDP) have been compiled for the two consecutive EU financial programming periods: 2004-2006 and 2007-2013 under the reference frameworks provided by the national strategy plans and in line with the requirements of EU Rural and Environmental Policy. Essentially, such national rural development policy seeks to encourage the multifunctional role of the agricultural sector within a wider framework for integrated rural development aiming at achieving sustainable development.

In 2008, the Rural Development Department (RDD) was responsible for the management and implementation of the various measures funded under the Guidance and Guarantee (EAGGF) 2004-2006 programmes. With regard to the Guidance funds, the RDD was the final beneficiary under the Single Programming Document for Malta, and as such it was responsible for the implementation of the 3 priority measures, mainly Investments in Agricultural holdings and Improving in Marketing and Processing of Agricultural Products. With respect to measures funded under the RDP Guarantee section, the RDD acted as the Authority responsible for the management, implementation and authorisation of payments linked with the various measures under the 2004-2006 programme. The Rural Development Plan for the programming period 2007-2013 was approved in December 2007. Under this new programme, the RDD assumed the role of Managing Authority and, together with the Paying Agency within the MRRA, took the necessary steps towards the successful implementation of the funding programme under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

Uptake of agri-environmental measures under the RDPs assists in addressing biodiversity concerns in this sector. Agri-environment measures under RDP 2004-2006 included the following:

  • Preservation of Rubble Walls;

  • Organic Farming;

  • Conservation of Autochthonous Species: Maltese Oak & Maltese Ox Species.

Progress in implementing the 2004-2006 RDP during 2007 was reported to the Commission through the Annual Progress Report (APR). Another major reporting task entrusted to the Managing Authority is to provide for the setting up and submission of Malta’s ex-post evaluation report. The ex-post evaluation is an evaluation process which informs authorities, the general public, the EU and other stakeholders involved about the outcomes of the 2004-2006 RDP. With regards to the agri-environment measures, the ex-post report documents the findings as shown in Table 11, overleaf. In the case of the rubble walls sub-measure, the uptake can be considered to be good, although only 79% of the target had been reached by end 2008. Initial administration and control difficulties delayed the processing of payments for a time. The conservation of the Maltese Ox sub-measure met with a degree of success; this was the least complex as there was only one beneficiary involved. Although the target was not fully reached, and this for reasons outside the control of the programme, the measure can still be considered to have been successful. The Holm Oak sub-measure met with very limited success, with only 25% of the original target having been achieved, this in spite of altering of the criteria for eligibility, which to a measure increased the degree of participation in 2006. This may be attributed to insufficient efforts towards animation, but is also most probably due to the relatively small compensation being offered compared to costs. The organic farming sub-measure also met with limited success, with only 20% of the original target having been achieved. According to MRRA statistics, the agri-environmental measure achieved a degree of success in enticing farmers to increase record-keeping, although this indicator was attained at only a 53% level compared to the original target. Some further improvement can however be expected with the continued outlays on the agri-environment measure in coming years (Source: Malta’s ex-post report)



Targets as per RDP

Actual Realised Targets as at end 2008


Reducing Soil Erosion

Area of rubble walls restored

200,000m2 of rubble wall restored



Conservation of

Autochthonous species

Number of Maltese Oxen conserved

Survival of 9 Maltese Oxen with projected natural increases as per

breeding program



Conservation of the areas with Holm Oak populations and their buffer zones

Conservation of at least 50% of the buffer area around Holm Oak Populations- Area around Holm Oak populations at least 13ha



Promotion of organic farming

Applicants practising organic farming methods

A maximum of 30 applicants undertaking organic production signifying an increase of producers



Increasing records

Applicants keeping farm records through Whole Farm Management Plan

10% of the farming community keeping farm records (Total farmers – 17,969 FSS 2005)



*Based on spot control Figures made in 2008 based on claim year 2004/05/06

**The area decreased comparing to end of 2006 due to the commitments were not continued

Source: MRRA

Table 11 - Agri-Environment Measure - Indicators and Results

In a national context, EAFRD’s Axis II as considered in Malta’s RDP ‘intends to improve the environment and the countryside through encouraging the retention of agricultural activity and promotion of environmental friendly production methods in line with rural heritage’. Several measures, especially under Axis II measure 214, are related to farming activities that reduce the impact on biodiversity. Measure 213 (Natura 2000 payments) was not adopted. Allocations for Axis II amount to 25,025,000 Euro of Public funds of which 10,525,000 Euro are for measure 214. Environmental complementarity under Axis III measure 323 would also be attained via the development of Natura 2000 and environmental management plans with an estimated allocation of about 8,000,000 Euros.

Agri-environment measures under the current RDP 2007-2013 include the following:

  • AEM 1: Use of environmentally friendly plant protection products in vineyards

  • AEM 2: Traditional cultivation of sulla through crop rotation

  • AEM 3: Low input farming

  • AEM 4: Suppress the use of herbicides in vineyards and fruit orchards

  • AEM 5: Establishment and maintenance of conservation buffer strips

  • AEM 6: Conservation of rural structures providing a natural habitat for fauna and flora

  • AEM 7: Providing a healthy forage area for bees

  • AEM 8: Support for Organic Farming

  • AEM 9: Support for the Conservation of species in danger of genetic erosion

On a specific area a farmer can apply for one of the above measures or for a combination of two measures according to the following packages: AEM2 + AEM3 and AEM1 + AEM4.

The current RDP (2007-2013) links environmental measures to the objectives of the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme (6th EAP). In 2008, the RDD launched a number of measures contained in the Rural Development Plan 2007-2013. Axis II “Improving the environment and the countryside” was fully launched. This launch consisted in Measures 212 and Measure 214 which together accounts for 25% of all the funds available under the RDP 2007-2013. The measures were publicised with the distribution of numerous leaflets and publications. In conjunction with these initiatives, numerous posters were produced accompanied by billboards and audiovisual clips.

3.1.2 Good Agricultural Practice

The Code of Good Agricultural Practice (CoGAP) for Malta constitutes an exhaustive compilation of all good practices pertinent to a number of EU Directives, prevailing national legislation, good farming practices as well as a number of potential practices under a voluntary basis. The Code contains recommendations concerning all aspects of agricultural production namely: animal husbandry, manure handling, fertilization practice, irrigation practice, and plant protection. Such recommendations are divided into the following categories:

  • Codes that are obligatory for all farmers because they form part of the EU Nitrates Directive, more specifically of the Malta Action Programme for the Nitrates Directive;

  • Codes that are obligatory for all farmers because they form part of other EU Directives;

  • Codes that are obligatory for farmers entering into any agri-environment commitment and/or are in receipt of compensatory allowances in Less favoured Areas, since they form part of the Good Farming Practices; and

  • Codes that are voluntary for farmers.

3.1.3 Cross-compliance

Farmers receiving direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are required to follow cross-compliance requirements i.e. are required to abide to Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) in the field of the environment, food safety, plant and animal health, and animal welfare. In addition, farmers are obliged to keep their land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs) in compliance with standards established by Member States.

The “Cross-Compliance Related to EU Aid Applications in terms of the Paying Agency Regulations, 2005” (LN 346 of 2005 as amended) lays down the structure for the management of cross-compliance, and EU obligations related thereto, in Malta. The Competent Control Authority is the Control Unit of the Paying Agency within the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs (MRRA). In its capacity as the Control Authority, this Unit ensures compliance with all SMRs and GAECs in Malta.

On a national level, cross-compliance on all direct payments has been introduced since 1 January 2005. Farmers receiving direct payments were required to respect SMRs referred to in Annex III of Regulation (EC) 1782/2003 and the GAECs over a three year period. In 2005, the GAECs, all the environmental SMRs and the identification and registration of SMRs were applied. As from 1January 2006 a number of SMRs relating to public, animal and plant health came into force and started to be controlled, while in 2007 the same applied to the animal welfare SMRs.

On-the-spot checks are delegated to three specialised bodies. Cross-compliance national guidelines define the SMRs and minimum standards for GAEC for the implementation of cross-compliance in Malta. Malta developed the GAECs on the basis of the framework set up in Annex IV of Regulation (EC) 1782/2003, taking into account the specific characteristics of Maltese conditions. Although all the issues indicated in the annex were covered, not all the standards were applicable to Malta. Ten national standards were established, targeting soil erosion, soil organic matter, soil structure and minimum level of maintenance. In Malta, the standards for each SMR were developed by the government department or agency with the most relevant experience of the issues covered by the SMR standards. The standards themselves were based on existing national legislation. Each Competent Authority developed its own checklist.

The Control Unit acquires data from the Competent Authorities, either through direct link with IT systems or via correspondence as agreed in a memorandum of understanding. The Control Unit carries out checks every year on a sample of farmers that would have applied for aid under both Pillar I and Pillar II measures of the CAP. On-site inspections are carried out to ensure that farmers are complaint with the relevant SMRs and GAECs applicable to them. For those farmers who apply for measures under Axis II of the EAFRD, additional controls are made with regards to minimum requirements on the use fertilisers and plant protection products. Inspectors assess their findings on the basis of standard checklists. The results of an inspection are then inputted in the control system software and in this way the outcomes are calculated in accordance to the ‘Cross-Compliance Related to EU Aid Applications in terms of the Paying Agency (Amendment) Regulations, 2009’ (LN 207 of 2009). The farmers are informed about non-compliances found and breaches (if any).

Cross-compliance checks are carried out on a minimum of 1% of farmers receiving direct payments. Most of the penalties issued on GAEC breaches were related to the abandonment of agricultural land. Inspectors regularly carry out inspections and when in contact with the farmer explain what their mission is and what irregularities (if present) should be corrected. From the 2008 controls, 293 farmers were selected for controls, out of which 23% were fully compliant with all the SMR’s/GAEC. Although an intensive promotion campaign was conducted in 2008, 66% of the farmers were sanctioned with 1% and 5% of their direct payments. Nonetheless, there is evidence that cross-compliance is effective in that it leads to an improvement of the degree of compliance. Evidence showed that cross-compliance induced a lot of farmer activities aimed at improving their farming practice up to EU standards. Farmers are definitely more aware of what good agricultural practices entail as well as the impact pollution may have on the environment in general.

The Control Unit was strengthened through a capacity-building programme so as to be able to perform all the controls. The inspectors carrying out cross-compliance checks in Malta have a University Diploma and/or postgraduate degree in agricultural sciences. They are familiarised with the various directives pertaining to each SMR as stipulated in Council Regulation EC 73/2009. Specialised training is also provided by the National Competent Authority for the respective Regulation and Directive.

3.1.4 Organic Farming

The Organic Farming Unit was set up in 2003 within the Rural Affairs and Paying Agency Division and entrusted with inter alia, promoting and increasing awareness of organic farming in the Maltese Islands. Malta’s Control Authority on Organic Farming is the Malta Standards Authority (MSA).

Till the end of 2007 there were about 12 approved and certified producers of organic products in Malta. In total, these producers farmed 17.3 ha of agricultural land (0.17% of total UAA) and when compared with the previous year, a decrease of 14% in organically farmed land is noted. This decline has been attributed to the decline in land used for organic production of olive trees, which currently occupies 40% of the organically farmed land (State of the Environment Indicators 2007). Updated information is provided by the SOEI 2008. An appraisal of the State of affairs of organic agriculture in Malta is available by Calleja (2004) is available online.

After accession to the EU, Malta embarked on the process of adopting specific rules on organic farming, aligned on EC rules on organic farming. In 2004, the Organic Farming Regulations of 2004 (LN 237 of 2004) were published in order to transpose Council Regulation (EEC) 2092/91, thereby laying out the measures to be taken to control the organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs, and hence creating the setup which would enable the certification of local organic products. LN 237 of 2004 was subsequently amended by LN 180 of 2005 and LN 232 of 2007 (Legal Notices available for download from here).

3.1.5 Other Information

The Rural Strategy Topic Paper adopted in 2003 and developed as part of Malta’s Structure Plan review process, advocates the integration of development with the local rural context, with an emphasis on the protection of the countryside and the efficient use of natural and man-made resources for present and future generations. The National Strategy for Sustainable Development in Malta – 2007 to 2016 (NCSD, 2006) highlights a number of important issues that need to be addressed in order to integrate sustainability into the agricultural sector in Malta.

The National Rural Network for Malta was recently officially launched during a seminar in 2009 with the aim of drawing together stakeholders (representatives from local councils, cooperatives, local communities, civil society and NGOs who are interested in the agriculture sector so as to discuss within focus groups related themes (climate change, bioenergy, biodiversity, water resource management) and thereby drive forth sustainability of this sector. This network together with networks of other Member States will form the European Network for Rural Development.

With regards to data related to the agricultural, husbandry and horticultural sectors, Unit B4: Environment and Resources within the National Statistics Office generates the data shown in Table 12.





Results of Farm Structure Surveys



SGM Coefficients



Gross Indigenous Production - Cattle



Gross Indigenous Production - Pigs



Gross Indigenous Production – Sheep & Goats



Structure of Hatcheries



Livestock Survey - Cattle - November/December



Livestock Survey - Cattle - Size of Herd



Livestock Survey - Pigs - November/December



Livestock Survey - Pigs - Size of Herd



Livestock Survey – Sheep & Goats - November/December



Livestock Survey – Sheep & Goats - Size of Herd



Supply Balance Sheets - Eggs



Supply Balance Sheets - Meat






Trade of Chicks



Orchards Survey - 5 yearly



Agricultural Accounts at Regional Level Annual.



Animal Populations at Regional Level.



Crop Production at Regional Level



Land Use at Regional Level



Vineyards - Forecast - Annual



Vineyards - Areas - Annual



Vineyards - Grub (re)planted - Annual



Vineyards - Wine Production - Annual

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