“Everything should be in line, and all relevant authorities have been brought up to speed in order to register the Ġbejna as PDO. So Malta is now very close to elevate the status of the Ġbejna. Unfortunately the biggest current obstacle in the way is bureaucracy at a local level.”
One thing that makes us Maltese people happy is our appetite for food. Maybe not always an appetite for healthy food, or the Mediterranean diet, (although these are regaining popularity), but mostly carb based meals and an indulgence in not-so-healthy snacks.
In spite all of our affection for food, Malta is the only EU member state that has not yet registered one single food product with an EU quality mark (apart from wine, although these are not certifications that clearly denominate specific indigenous varieties such as the Girgentina or the Ġellewża). All the other countries in the EU have registered dozens, if not hundreds of food and drink products, through various quality schemes, namely; PDO, PGI and TSG.
This issue was also raised by Mr. Francis Fay (Head of Unit at DG Agri) during his recent visit to Malta where he discussed the future of the CAP. Mr. Fay has been closely associated with the development of agricultural product quality policy, which includes the protection of geographical indications within the EU.
During a meeting which took place in Santa Venera, Mr. Fay told farmer representatives that throughout his stay in Malta, he noted that we have a lot of potential in quality foods and named several products which can acquire the said quality labels. Ġbejniet, honey, Maltese pork sausages, the Maltese loaf (il-ħobża) and sun dried tomatoes were amongst those that he mentioned.
There are many reasons why Malta has not yet registered or obtained any quality labels for foods, however, lack of cooperation (amongst producers), the need for more research and also lack of good will from the end of authorities are some of the reasons.
The product which stands closer to become the first food product recognised as PDO is the local cheese, the Ġbejna. The leading organisation representing sheep breeders, Xirka Produtturi Nagħaġ u Mogħoż, has managed to organise the sector and has over 130 breeders registered with it. It has collaborated closely in research projects, has assisted its members in upgrading their farms and worked towards setting standards for the production of the Ġbejna.
Everything should be in line, and all relevant authorities have been brought up to speed in order to register the Ġbejna as PDO. So Malta is now very close to elevate the status of the Ġbejna. Unfortunately the biggest current obstacle in the way is bureaucracy at a local level.
It is a shame that all challenges at farm level have been surmounted and the only thing hindering the progress in achieving this important quality label is the ‘status quo’ attitude of local authorities. Let us hope that someone high up within the ranks manages to push this issue in the right direction.