Isle of Man farmers won't support meat plant restructuring

Farmers will not back the Isle of Man’s meat plant restructuring, according to Lynwill Farms Ltd owner William Christian, who is currently trying to set up his own plant.

The island’s government is due to take over the managing of the plant, as the organisation currently running it, the Fatstock Marketing Association (FMA), has advised the operation is facing insolvency within six months.

But Christian, who has filed an application to open another meat plant on the island, does not believe in the restructuring. “The last reform was a disaster,” he said. “I put 150 lambs in last week and got them for 28% less than the average English market price.”

“The farming community in general has no confidence whatsoever in what’s going on. I’m determined to open a new meat plant, and another farmer has just filed an application to open a third one, which I think is fantastic.”

The plant’s directors believe the restructuring will increase flexibility to respond to consumer needs, because the new company will be bound by more recent legislation, whereas the FMA is running under the 1934 Agricultural Marketing Act.

FMA representative Scott Baker said: “Our responses to market threats are severely limited by a legal framework created nearly 80 years ago. If Manx meat is to have a future we need a marketing structure designed for the satisfaction of consumers in the 21st century.

“In the past year the Meat Plant has made real progress in cutting costs and improving quality. However, recent extreme market conditions have driven up prices for livestock to unprecedented levels, while the FMA remains obliged to accept all animals at any time whatever their quality; this causes supply issues that threaten the plant’s continued existence.”

Agriculture minister John Shimmin urged farmers and consumers to support the new project. He said: “Closure of the Meat Plant would be a major blow to farming, industry and the Manx countryside.
“The way forward is to modernise the operation of the plant so that it can provide better value for the taxpayer’s investment, better quality for the consumer, and a better future for the farmers.”

It is estimated that the meat plant would need a taxpayer subsidy of more than £1m a year to continue on its current co-operative basis.

> New meat plant proposal for Isle of Man