“You need more water,” Monica Pasqua, owner and founder of a small agritourism business on the Italian island of Sardinia, said as she peered at my (admittedly feeble) attempts at moulding pasta dough into the traditional Sardinian ‘malloreddus’.
Under her watchful gaze and with the help of her seasoned hands, the pasta started taking shape, some rolling up into tiny shells, others being folded into little packages around a lemony ricotta centre.
I was staying at Monica’s agritourism farm on the outskirts of the historical city of Alghero, a fortress town encircled by ancient walls that, still to this day, speak a dialect of Catalan, a remnant from its colonisation back in the 1300s.
Together with her daughter, Fabienne, and the rest of her family, Monica runs a small but successful, seven-hectare agritourism business, welcoming guests from all over the world to sample the goods grown from her farm, including a homemade Sardinian liqueur ‘mirto’ and olive oil grown from a local variety of tree.
For Monica, the idea was a no-brainer.
“I needed something that would help work around my growing family and something that offered us more security, more money,” she explained.
Nowadays, agritourism – a travel experience combining agriculture with a touristic experience to offer guests the flavour of rural life – is well established both in Italy and across the EU.
In doing so, farmers (more often than not, small farmers) can diversify their economic activities and valorise local products while helping spread knowledge about agriculture and conserving Europe’s rural heritage.
But this wasn’t always the case in Alghero.
“When I first said I wanted to start agritourism, I received a lot of criticism,” she told me, pointing out that, for many farmers, it is not in their culture to combine farming with tourism.
This is because farmers “want to work on the ground, not to make money in other things,” she said, explaining that she initially received a lot of backlash from her neighbours to the point where she felt ostracised from the farming community.
But, slowly but surely, the idea took hold, and now, 40 years down the line, Monica can proudly say that she pioneered a flourishing agritourism movement in the region, now a mainstay of the Sardinian tourism sector.
“Now the same people that criticised me are doing it too, they’re even coming to me to say, ‘how can I set up an agritourism place like yours?’” she pointed out with a little laugh.
And this is a trend that is set to continue, according to Monica, who told me that they have been receiving more and more bookings over the past few years as people seek out an authentic farm experience where they can eat and live like a local.
However, the agritourism sector, just like the entire tourism sector, is still struggling to recover from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
But Monica, who so evidently lives and breathes for her work, remains optimistic.
“Time will tell how things will work out, but I’m hopeful,” she said with a shrug. “All we can do is continue as we always have done – with the same simplicity, authenticity and humility that we started out with, good hospitality, a lot of patience, and, of course, good food,” she said in words of wisdom for us all.
(By Natasha Foote)
This week, EURACTIV’s agrifood team talks you through what happened in last week’s meeting of EU leaders, which had a strong emphasis on food security, we hear from a tour guide on the island of Sardinia about the role prisoners played, and continue to play, in its agricultural sector, and we take a closer look at honey and the sad reality for beekeepers dealing with a changing climate.
Agrifood stories of the week
Ukraine’s deputy agri minister: Winning the war, unblocking ports only way to restore grain exports
Despite an adequate and friendly global response, the only option to restore grain exports from Ukraine is to win the war as Russia can not be trusted in any plan aimed at unblocking seaports in the South of the country, Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister told EURACTIV’s Yaroslava Bukhta in an exclusive interview.
Czech Presidency: ‘Let’s forget about the Farm to Fork strategy for a few months’
It would be wise to forget about the EU’s flagship sustainable food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy, throughout the Czech Republic’s presidency to instead focus on increasing food production, Štěpán Černý, director-general for European Affairs for the Czech government, told EURACTIV.
Keep calm and carry on trading: Von der Leyen urges solidarity to fix food crisis
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called for a show of global solidarity to cope with the food insecurity caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, urging states to keep trade open while pledging EU support for the most vulnerable countries. Natasha Foote has more.
Hunger hotspots: UN warns current food insecurity worse than Arab Spring
Acute food insecurity will likely deteriorate further in 20 countries – so-called ‘hunger hotspots’ – over the coming months, according to a new report from the world’s major food organisations, who warn the current situation is already worse than during the 2011 Arab Spring. Learn more.
Grain now a ‘means of war’, says German official
While grain has become a “means of war” and solidarity with Ukraine is a top priority right now, pressing the pause button on environmental and climate protection would be fatal because “climate crisis will not pause either”, a senior official at the German agriculture ministry told EURACTIV.
EU agency ‘stops the clock’ on safety assessment of hemp-derived oil as food
The EU marketing authorisation of cannabidiol oil (CBD) as novel food has been put on hold by the EU’s food safety agency (EFSA) as more data on the effect of this lighter chemical compound extracted from hemp plants on human health is needed. Gerardo Fortuna and Yaroslava Bukhta have more.
German minister presents plans for mandatory animal welfare label
Every product produced and sold in Germany will soon have to indicate the conditions under which animals were kept, according to plans presented by German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir on Tuesday (7 June). EURACTIV Germany reports.
Do not trust Russia, Ukraine warns. Turkey will buy Ukrainian grain at a 25% discount and has signed an agreement with Ukraine, Turkey’s minister of agriculture Fahit Kirishchi said. Apparently, the discount is connected to the efforts of Turkey to help unblock the ports that remain under blockade because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ankara is considering the idea of creating a “grain corridor” in the Black Sea and is currently involved in negotiations about it. At the same time, Ukraine has called on international partners not to believe that Russia will not use the Black Sea de-mining as an opportunity to attack Odesa. Adding to this, last Saturday (4 June), the Russian troops launched a missile strike on the sea specialised grain-exporting port “Nika-Tera” in Mykolayiv.
Unblocking seaports in Ukraine remains top priority. In May, Ukraine managed to increase grain and oil seeds exports to 1.7 million tonnes, with the river ports becoming the main gates amid the seaport blockade. This constitutes 180% of the April 2022 volume. Read more here. However, export remains the issue as, before the full-scale war, Ukraine exported five or more million tonnes of grains per month.
Pesticides on the Agrifish agenda. Ten member states (Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) have joined forces in a letter, to be presented as an AOB point at the next EU Agrifish Council, to urge the European Commission to consider several proposals to ensure that the future legislative act on sustainable use of plant protection products “adequately reflects the principle of subsidiarity, the differences between member states and their unique characteristics in reaching the goals of the Farm to Fork Strategy.”
Stronger EU-Egyptian agri relations. Egypt and the EU announced a strengthening of cooperation in the field of water management and agriculture, according to a statement by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry released on Friday after a meeting between Egypt’s Ambassador to the EU, Badr Abdel-Atti, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, according to Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
More Moldovan products. The European Commission proposed a regulation this week allowing for temporary improved market access for the remaining seven products from Moldova, which are still subject to tariff-rate quotas when entering the EU. This is a “demonstration of EU’s solidarity” designed to help Moldova deal with the loss of its main markets and transit hubs for these key agricultural products resulting from Russia’s unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine, a press statement explained.
Ferrero accused of keeping quiet about Salmonella. After an outbreak of Salmonella in its chocolate products back in April, the Ferrero group has been accused of having delayed alerting the authorities and recalling its products, according to Libération.
New faces, new places. Arnold Puech d’Alissac, farmer and member of the French agricultural lobby, FNSEA, was voted as the new President of the World Farmers’ Organisation. Puech d’Alissac will hold this position until 2024.
Geographical indications. This week, the Commission approved two new Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs): the Italian ‘Lenticchia di Onano’ and the German ‘Hohenloher Birnenbrand’.
CAPpy Birthday! The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) turned 60 this week and was celebrated by MEPs who dressed up in traditional attire. However, not everyone was best pleased with the celebrations, with campaigners launching a ‘Crappy Birthday’ campaign to protest the CAP’s environmental inaction. For background on the celebration, check out EURACTIV’s video.
Agrifood news from the CAPitals
Food security high on government’s agenda. In a phone call between German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday, both leaders agreed that “everything should be done to enable the export of grain from Ukraine, especially via sea,” according to Scholz’s chief spokesperson. Meanwhile, food security was also the focus when development minister Svenja Schulze, representing the German G7 presidency, spoke at the Mediterranean Ministerial Dialogue on the Food Security Crisis on hosted by Italy on Wednesday (8 June). “Saving as many people as possible from starvation now means taking global and immediate action,” she stressed. (Julia Dahm I EURACTIV.de)
Agri minister rules out VAT reductions. While Austrian agriculture minister Norbert Totschnig said in an interview with broadcaster PULS 24 that food supply in the country was not at risk, food prices have gone up significantly, putting a strain on food affordability. Even so, the government in Vienna has decided not to take advantage of the permission given by the EU Commission for countries to reduce VAT on food to disburden consumers. Experts had counselled the government that the measure would only have “very small” effects and that it was “questionable” whether retailers would fully pass reductions on to consumers, Totschnig said. (Julia Dahm I EURACTIV.de)
Scientists gather in Dijon to talk pesticides reduction. While moving away from pesticides will create difficulties, agroecology is the necessary solution to face this problem and ultimately generate gains in production, researcher Xavier Reboud told EURACTIV France at the sidelines of a conference in Dijon. Read the interview here. (Hugo Struna | EURACTIV.fr)
CAP on tour. In what could only be feasible in a small country such as Luxembourg, agriculture minister Claude Haagen is currently touring around the country and holding information sessions on the EU CAP reform and Luxembourg’s Strategic Plan in different villages. According to the ministry, the campaign, which is titled “CAP on tour”, is meant to explain changes to things like direct payments and conditionality as well as new instruments like eco schemes for farmers. (Julia Dahm I EURACTIV.de)
Organic food exports 60% higher than a decade ago. The export of Spanish organic food and beverages has grown by 60% in a period of 10 years, according to the Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB). The country is the fourth largest organic food exporter worldwide. EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro has more. (EFE Agro)
Farmers protest higher small farm subsidies. Under the new CAP subsidies period starting from 2023, funds specifically meant to support small farmers are set to make up 23% of direct payments, making for a 10% increase compared to before. However, medium and big farmers are less than happy about this: 2,000 of them gathered in Prague on Wednesday to protest the change. Get the full story here. (Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)
Commission slams Slovakia’s strategic plan as not green enough. The Slovak Ministry of Agriculture has finally published the Commission’s observation letter on its CAP strategic plan, comprising 315 comments. Almost half of them concern the so-called green architecture. While the Commission welcomes the fact that Slovakia is proposing measures to improve biodiversity and soil protection, it expects the country to further tighten environmental and climate requirements for farmers. „Slovakia is requested to better demonstrate the increased ambition of the planned green architecture,“ the letter reads. Meanwhile, Commission also criticises Slovakia for its low level of commitment to promoting gender equality in the farming sector and encourages the ministry to take further measures to improve the participation of women in farming. (Marián Koreň | EURACTIV.sk)
Poland in the spotlight amid Ukraine grain export struggles. As the biggest EU country neighbouring Ukraine, Poland has turned into a logistics hub not only for humanitarian aid but also for exports of Ukrainian grain via rail. The topic was, therefore, high on the agenda when Polish agriculture minister Henryk Kowalczyk welcomed his German counterpart, Cem Özdemir, in Warsaw on Thursday. Speaking after the meeting, Kowalczyk said the question of how to support Ukrainian exports had been the most important topic discussed. He also announced that Ukrainian agri Minister Mykola Solsky will visit Poland “in the coming days.” Meanwhile, EU commission Janusz Wojciechowski is set to travel to his country of origin and meet with Kowalczyk on Friday. (EURACTIV.pl)
Future farming should unite environment, innovation, competitiveness. Speaking last Friday (3 June), Greek agriculture minister Georgios Georgantas highlighted the need to adopt a new production model in the agricultural sector based on scientific knowledge and an emphasis on the three goals of environment, innovation, and competitiveness, to effectively address the future challenges. To implement this new model, Georgantas mentioned among the priorities developing a circular economy, the development and productive promotion of nature-based eco-innovation solutions, promoting alternative methods of energy production from agricultural and livestock waste and biomass, as well as the use of modern information and communication technologies. (Georgia Evangelia Karagianni| EURACTIV.gr)
13 June | AGRIFISH Council meeting in Luxembourg
13-14 June | European Parliament’s agriculture committee meeting
13-14 June | European Parliament’s environment committee meeting
15 – 16 June | Rural Pact Conference
16 June | The Future of Food Conference 2022
17 June | Council Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA) meeting
[Edited by Alice Taylor]