Shortages in local agricultural production are driving an anticipated rise in the prices of fruits and vegetables in Malta, according to Joe Cassar, the manager of the Farmers' Central Cooperative Society (FCCS), the largest farming cooperative in the country. This upward trend in prices is expected in the short term due to a series of challenges faced by local farmers, including external shocks like the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian War, as well as various meteorological trends and climate change impacts.
The recent scarcity of rainfall during Malta's autumn season, particularly in October, has created a challenging environment for local farmers. The unusually dry conditions have forced farmers to use substantial amounts of water and energy to irrigate their crops, contributing to increased costs. Cassar explained that the lack of rainfall is especially problematic when preparing land for colder weather, as crops that thrive in colder temperatures may struggle to grow and take longer to mature.
Despite the additional expenses associated with irrigation, farmers have been able to balance their costs due to observed increases in prices over the past year and a half. Cassar noted that prices at the open market have risen compared to the previous year, providing some financial relief to farmers.
The challenges faced by local farmers extend beyond weather-related issues. Cassar highlighted the kind of rainfall experienced in Malta, characterized by sudden bursts of powerful rainfall or hail, which can lead to flooding in the small, developed island. However, he expressed optimism that if regular rainfall returns, the market's supply and demand would stabilize, contributing to more predictable pricing. Nevertheless, Cassar acknowledged that local pricing is also influenced by the cost of imported products.