Almost a decade after a landmark study which aimed to valorise local artisanal cheese-making, we are now witnessing the process which might lead to the disappearance of our very own traditional cheese - the Ġbejna. The peer-reviewed study, co-funded by the EU (with an investment to the tune of €775k) and led by the University of Malta, is the only research to date which established that the Ġbejna is a type of artisanal cheese made from raw sheep's milk. However local authorities have been ignoring the study for years on end. With the impending decision by the MCCAA relating to the second application for a PDO, an eventual acceptance is set to crush once and for all the hope for Malta to properly protect an important part of its culinary and agricultural heritage. We are expecting once again, that a decision of this sort will be painted as a "victory for sheep breeders", when in actual fact - at best - it would be a scheme meant to dilute their power within the market place.
There were two main issues about the current application which prompted our objection:
1) It specifies within the protected name the “source of milk”. This would weaken the validity of the PDO since it leaves an avenue for other milk-types to be protected in the future while using the word "Ġbejna"
2) The introduction of a loophole to remove the use of the "Qanniċ" which would allow for “Ġbejniet” to be mass-produced rather than protecting the Maltese artisanal production method.
More details about our objection may be found in the link here.
The MaYA Foundation’s final attempt to bring reason and common sense to the table has brought impudent and uncalled for personal threats to our supporters and administrators, and since the very organisation which was supposedly protecting the sheep breeders' interests has lost hope, we are left with no choice but to simply watch as things unfold.
The minutes of our final meeting with MCCAA and Xirka Produtturi Nagħaġ u Mogħoż (the guild which represents sheep and goat breeders) are quite self-explanatory, though we would have preferred if we were to have in hand the full video recording of the meeting - since most nuances cannot be minuted.
Our main concern is that all the sheep breeders we talked to were (and some still are) completely unaware of what their 'representatives' were compiling in the new application, and the ones who eventually plucked up the courage and objected, were allegedly either warned to rescind their objection, or convinced that the PDO will actually protect the sheep's traditional cheese. We are also aware of at least one breeder who persisted, since this person wanted to be part of the discussion, but was never called in for the objectors' meeting.
It must be said that, however unlikely, an eventual refusal by MCCAA of the current PDO application might lead to a third, and improved, application. Hopefully one which we would be proud to endorse once again.