There was standing room only at an industry meeting to discuss the future of the island’s meat plant.
Agriculture Minister Geoffrey Boot, political member Tim Baker and director of agriculture Dr Peter McEvoy explained why putting the plant, at Tromode, out to tender was the best option for the agricultural industry, local meat supply chain and the taxpayer.
The plant is run by Isle of Man Meats, a co-operative of farmers, and requires an annual government subvention.
In 2016 this rose to nearly £1.4 million.
The proposal was one of four shortlisted by a steering group that considered an industry expert’s report on ways of making the plant more profitable.
The group is made up of DEFA, Isle of Man Meats, the Manx National Farmers’ Union and the Agricultural Marketing Society.
Mr Boot said: ’After close consideration of all the options, the steering group concluded that securing a private operator will be the best solution for the agriculture industry and the taxpayer.
’Agriculture is vital to our economy and part of our unique heritage and culture.
’The meat plant is a strategic asset for the island.
’A commercial operator with a strong market focus and an eye on innovation can turn around the fortunes of the plant and this will support the industry.’
DEFA is to seek expressions of interest from commercial organisations interested in running the plant to enable would-be operators to hold discussions with the department before it formally seeks tenders.
It is hoped to complete the process within the next year.
The measure is being taken against a backdrop of increasing live exports and a decrease in local sales of Manx meat.
In a statement from the directors of Isle of Man Meats it said that while putting the plant out to tender was not their preferred option ’the directors fully understand DEFA’s reasoning and rationale for making such a decision and will endeavour to support and co-operate with DEFA in whatever way we are able to during this process’.
Chief Minister Howard Quayle said a successful meat plant was key to the farming industry: ’It doesn’t just impact on beef, lamb and pork; it impacts on the dairy and cereal sectors too.’