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Geography, climate and population
The Maltese Archipelago is located in the central part of the Mediterranean Sea about 90 km south of Sicily (Italy), 300 km east of Tunisia and 350 km north of Libya. It consists of 3 main islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino and some islets(Cominotto, Filfla) without inhabitants.
The total area of the archipelago is 316 km▓. The available agricultural land has steadily decreased during recent decades, due to urban and tourist development. Between 1983 and 1991 it decreased by almost 7% from 11 491 ha to 10 721 ha. All available agricultural land is cultivated. Pressures are also heightened on already overcharged infrastructures such as water and electricity by the presence of more than 1 million tourists a year.
Due to its geographical location the archipelago enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, humid winters. The rainy season is between September and March with the last rain in April. Average annual rainfall is around 524 rnrn and the temperature varies between 7░C and 15░C in January to between 25░C and 35░C in August. A record temperature of 42░C was recorded in August 1995.
The total population is 366 000 (1995), of which 11% is rural. With a population density of 1 158 inhabitants/km▓ it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. About 2% of the labour force are full-time farmers and another 15% are part-time farmers. The rural population is decreasing because of a reduction in the number of full-time farmers and a preference for urban settlement. On the other hand, old and abandoned farmhouses are being reinstated or converted to residential farmhouses by non-farming families who prefer to live in the countryside. In 1993, agriculture, including fishing, accounted for only 3% of GDP.