Wine pro­duc­ers fac­ing huge chal­lenges due to harsh weather, age­ing pop­u­la­tion of farm­ers

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Gabriel Schem­bri Pho­tos: Baskal Mal­lia

The de­mand for local wine is high but pro­duc­tion is fac­ing huge chal­lenges and ur­gent mea­sures need to be taken if the craft is to sur­vive. Low rain­fall and blaz­ing heat­waves have brought about a poor harvest for Malta’s largest wine­maker, Marso­vin. Harvest pro­duc­tion from this last sea­son dropped by 25% and, as Marso­vin CEO Jeremy Cas­sar put it, the au­thor­i­ties should in­tro­duce new mea­sures to en­cour­age local wine pro­duc­tion.

Cas­sar was ad­dress­ing the press in front of the Mar­nisi Es­tate in Marsaxlokk. He ex­plained that the heat which struck the Mal­tese is­lands has caused more than a third of vines to be lost com­pletely.

The dry weather has also af­fected the harvest dras­ti­cally. Some 380 mil­lime­tres of rain have fallen since last Septem­ber. This marks a small in­crease on last year but is still far lower than 540 mil­lime­tres, Malta’s yearly av­er­age. Cas­sar ex­plained that the little rain­fall which poured onto the is­land came af­ter Fe­bru­ary, which is the vine’s veg­e­ta­tive pe­riod.

“There is an ur­gent need to in­vest in re­plant­ing for local vines as they are dy­ing sooner be­cause of the harsher weather,” he said. Cas­sar said the com­pany is look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity of ap­ply­ing for EU funds. How­ever, dis­cus­sions re­gard­ing pos­si­ble help from the au­thor­i­ties were stalled be­cause of the gen­eral elec­tion.

The age­ing pop­u­la­tion of local farm­ers also gives way to con­cern. The cur­rent av­er­age age of farm­ers stands at 55 and sta­tis­tics show that fewer peo­ple are in­ter­ested in get­ting their hands dirty in the fields. “Vine­yards take up a lot of land. You need at least from 10 to 20 tu­muli to pro­duce wine vi­ably. Young farm­ers need size­able fields to make a de­cent in­come.”

The list of chal­lenges faced by wine pro­duc­ers goes on. A lot of vines are old and need ur­gent re­plant­ing, es­pe­cially for the Ġellewża and Gir­gentina. The hot weather is mak­ing the vines dry up sooner than ex­pected and need to be changed at an ear­lier stage.

“Other coun­tries take care of their indigenous plants. Here in Malta, little has been done to pro­tect the in­dus­try. We need to take ac­tion now.”

Cas­sar said that the com­pany would be in­ter­ested in in­vest­ing in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. How­ever, he said that the com­pany can­not even keep up with the local de­mand. He fears that Malta is head­ing to­wards a sit­u­a­tion ex­pe­ri­enced some years ago, when it had to im­port a lot of grapes.

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