Figures on the trading performance of the island’s struggling Meat Plant will not be disclosed as they ‘are commercially confidential’.
The future of the government-owned abattoir is currently under review. Options being considered include contracting out, selling it off – and even closing it down.
The Manx Independent asked the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture to provide figures for how much the plant is losing annually and how many animals are being processed, compared with how many animals it was built to cater for.
It took two weeks to get a response – and even then DEFA did not supply the information requested.
Its statement said: ‘Volatility in the meat industry affects the plant’s financial performance but trading figures are commercially confidential.
‘Throughput figures are, similarly, subject to commercial confidentiality but there are seasonal differences so sometimes the plant operates at a higher capacity than at other times.’
Curiously, however, figures for profit and loss are available on the DEFA website, but only up to the year 2014.
A report on livestock pricing by Isle of Man Meats produced by Dr Steve Webster in September last year, reveals that the Meat Plant lost £86,604 after subvention in 2012. That figure fell to £44,111 in 2013 but then shot up to £115,440 in 2014.
The Meat Plant is operated by a co-operative of farmers trading as Isle of Man Meats. It slaughters cattle, sheep and pigs from Manx farms and the meat is then sold to local and off-island retailers for onward sale to consumers.
The Tromode facility is subsidised by the taxpayer. A subvention package worth £1.5m was agreed in Tynwald in 2012 as part of a three-year plan to make the Meat Plant more sustainable. That package saw guaranteed support decrease from £900,000 in 2013-14 to £380,000 in the current financial year.
DEFA said that during the second half of 2015, the business started to ‘under-perform’ and ‘subvention requirements escalated at that point’.
But it added: ‘However, of late performance has significantly improved.
‘The department is increasingly confident that the Meat Plant is an important and sustainable part of the food sector’s ability to add value to their product and is working with the MNFU and Isle of Man Meats’ board to ensure the business continues on the road to recovery.
‘The review project is expected to identify two or three options regarding how best to ensure a thriving plant and we expect to have an open meeting with the farming industry once those options are shortlisted, to explore their views and then conclude the long-term solution.’
DEFA said the island’s 400-plus farmers are free to choose their ‘route to market’ but the Meat Plant is currently obliged by board policy to accept stock presented to it.