Maltese farmers indefinite right of renewal of agricultural leases is facing imminent threat following a ruling by the Constitutional Court. The judgement deemed that there are breaches to the owners’ fundamental rights to the enjoyment of their property.
The landmark judgment is expected to open the floodgates to many more cases on similar merits. This was the first time that owners of agricultural land worth millions, were vindicated for the breaching of their rights by the Agricultural Leases (Reletting) Act for leasing land to third parties at an inadequate financial compensation.
The Court’s decision may affect several farmers that rent at meagre rates compared to the present market value of land.
In its judgement the Court, declared that under the present law, the owner could only claim back his land for farming purposes or to develop the site. If the owner did not intend to farm the land or lacked the capital to develop it, he could not claim his property back, unless the lessee agreed in writing to the termination of the lease.
Government is obliged to change archaic laws and respect Constitution
‘The Government should not continue to breach the rights of landowners and the Constitution and should immediately start an exercise to revise all the archaic laws on land and property use which have been repeatedly condemned by the Courts’ said the Malta Developers Association (MDA) in a statement in reaction to the court judgement.
The MDA insists that a serious government is morally and legally bound to protect all its citizens from any form of injustice, even if these happen to be against owners of land. The MDA calls upon all landowners to join its landlords’ section to form a common front and insist on a correction these flagrant injustices.
This may lead to another playground expansion for speculators and developers with more land at their disposal for development, further reducing much needed open spaces in urban areas.
Farmers organisation appeals to Government
‘A historical precedent that could be the cause of very serious problems in the agricultural sector because farmers working private land may be evicted and their livelihood threatened’, declared Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi.
Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi, in their statement as a reaction to Constitutional Court decision which found that the Agricultural Leases Act deprives landowners of the right to enjoy their property.
‘In view of this and the danger and uncertainty that this sentence has thrown at the agricultural sector, the Active Farmers Association is urging the Government to react urgently to the different reality that farmers have. they are now contained in it’ concluded the farmers appeal to the Government.
Still work to be done to protect farmers – Refalo
During a consultation meeting held earlier today, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Animal Rights Anton Refalo met with farmers and villagers.
Minister Refalo said that “Government is committed to work and address the challenges of such an important sector at European level.” He went on to say that “although a lot of work has already been done in recent months, there is still work to be done to protect, sustain and put the interest of the sector for the benefit of Maltese farmers and villagers. and Gozitans. ”
PN calls for political or legal remedies to safeguard farmers
In a brief statement, the Nationalist Party’s spokesperson on agriculture, MP Edwin Vassallo, said that while the party respected the Court’s ruling, it nevertheless felt that the government should find political and legal solutions which would safeguard the interests of landowners as well as farmers’ right to cultivate the land.
“Because our country cannot afford to lose its farmers. Our country needs to safeguard and continue to guarantee the supply of fresh food,” the MP said.