The Manx Government is happy to pull out the stops for the finance industry, so why shouldn’t it do the same for the food industry?
That’s the question asked by Laxey Glen Mills chairman Mike Henthorn, as he gives his support to Ramsey Bakery managing director Jim Duncan’s call for government to increase its support for local food producers.
Mr Henthorn and Mr Duncan blame cheap imported bread for a decline in production – at the mill where milling wheat is turned into flour, and at Ramsey Bakery, where 90 per cent of the mill’s flour is turned into bread.
Mr Henthorn said: ‘The Government pulls out all the stops to go on visits to China in connection with the finance industry, so why can’t they pull out all the stops to help the local food industry.’
He said bread, along with meat and milk, was one of three ‘food staples’ in which the island should be self-sufficient, in part, so residents won’t go without in the event of Steam Packet cancellations.
He said a concerted effort should be made by senior civil servants ‘to impress upon major food multiples the importance of increasing the purchase of local food products’. And they should be told that otherwise, the milling wheat industry and Ramsey Bakery, ‘won’t survive in any significant form’.
Mr Henthorn said: ‘The more bread that Ramsey Bakery supplies to major food retailers, the more flour that’s required from the mill and the more milling wheat that’s needed from the farmers.
‘If Ramsey Bakery didn’t exist, the mill wouldn’t exist and there would be no need for the milling wheat growers.’
Meanwhile, in Economic Development Minister John Shimmin’s written response to Mr Duncan, he said sustainability of local food production and local producers was ‘very high on Government’s agenda’, particularly in the DED and Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture.
‘We provide financial assistance and practical help to businesses across the food and drink sector,’ he said.
‘Government over the years has invested significantly in this sector to help local businesses to make attractive products for customers on the island and overseas. We are helping such businesses to be profitable and sustainable which is good for the local economy, taxpayers, food producers and our environment.’
He said Government shared Mr Duncan’s concerns when there appeared to be threats to the viability of such businesses.
Despite challenging financial times, he said he intends to continue this support.
And he encouraged businesses looking to expand to contact the department to discuss their plans and see where Government can help them.
Mr Duncan urged government to enter into one to one talks with major chains and ‘lobby vigorously’ for the support of local produce.
The Minister replied, saying Ministers had done so several times in recent years and would continue to do so.
He said a draft retail sector strategy, being drawn up, was ‘fully supportive of indigenous Manx businesses including those producing for the local retail market’.
He told the Manx Independent ‘local residents and local businesses also play a vital role and Government asks them to consider buying local’.