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Country profile: Malta
languages: Maltese, English President: George Abela
Prime minister: Lawrence Gonzi
Republic of Malta
Malta's agricultural sector is small and only
accounts for about 2.8 percent of GDP, but it is
diverse. In 1999 only 5 percent of workers were
employed in agriculture and there were only
about 10 square kilometers (3.9 square miles) of
land under irrigation. In 1998 agricultural
exports totaled US$42.1 million, but imports
totaled US$304 million. Since 1995 agriculture
has declined annually. In 1997 the decline was
10.3 percent, and in 1998 the decline was 11.6
Most farms are small and privately owned. Most
of the crops and foodstuffs produced are
consumed domestically. The main crops are
potatoes, cauliflower, grapes, wheat, barley,
tomatoes, citrus, and green peppers. Potatoes
are by far the main crop and accounted for
32,000 metric tons of the total agricultural
output of 38,000 metric tons. Medigrain, a
Maltese company, annually imports about 50,000
tons of wheat, which is then sold to local
bakeries and restaurants. It has silo capacity
to hold 86,000 metric tons of grain. The company
also acts as a trans-shipment agent for the
distribution of imported grain to other
countries. Livestock production includes beef,
chicken, lamb, pork, rabbit, and turkey. The
main livestock exports are prepared meat
products and fish.
The Maltese archipelago includes the islands of Malta, Gozo, Comino, Comminotto and Filfla.
It has a history of colonial control spanning centuries.
Located south of the Italian island of Sicily between Europe and North Africa, it has been occupied by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and latterly France and Britain.
Independence from Britain was achieved in 1964, after the Maltese people were awarded the George Cross for defending the island during World War II.
Forty years on Malta was the smallest of the 10 countries to join the EU in May 2004. It joined the eurozone in 2008.
Malta has been shaped by centuries of foreign rule
Since becoming an EU member, the tiny island has reported an increasing problem with immigration from north Africa and has requested more help to deal with it. The UN refugee agency has criticised the island's policy of keeping asylum seekers in detention for 18 months.
Over the centuries, Malta's strategic position fostered its development as an important trading post and it remains a leading centre for container and freight transhipment.
Malta is a popular holiday destination and tourism is the nation's main source of income.
Many of Malta's newspapers and broadcasters have strong political affiliations. Dailies and weeklies appear in Maltese and English.
Maltese radio began in the mid-1930s, partly to counter Fascist propaganda broadcasts from Italy. Malta Television launched in 1962, five years after the islanders started receiving TV signals from Italy. Italian channels remain popular.
The first private broadcasting licences were granted to the two major political parties and the Catholic Church. More stations followed and there is now a proliferation of privately-run radio stations and several TV channels.
Since Malta is a member of the Council of Europe, media laws are based on European law.
Cable TV was introduced in 1992 and satellite TV is widely-watched.