Ministers must rise to challenge to save our daily bread

Jim Duncan

Jim Duncan

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Ramsey Bakery has called on the government to increase its support for local food producers – or face losing them.

In a letter to Economic Development Minister John Shimmin, managing director Jim Duncan warned the closure of two bakeries in the Channel Islands due to cheap imports from the UK could happen in the island.

He said his company now produced more than 1 million loaves fewer per annum, resulting in 40 job losses.

The letter states: ‘I have had considerable dealings with C.I. Bakery [in Jersey] over a number of years and what has happened to them is going to happen here in the Isle of Man.

‘Warrey’s [in Guernsey], and, C. I. became singularly owned a few short years ago in an attempt to reduce costs by increasing scale but this was no match for the power of the multiples who can demand margins, set retail prices and negotiate deals which ultimately destroy small growers, producers and manufacturers.’

He said the island’s position in the EU free trade market was ‘a match made in hell’.

‘We for our part allow big business to ride rough shod over our infrastructure and essential industries, damaging our agricultural heritage and all the associated producers and manufactures in order that we can access the market for our surplus agricultural production,’ he said.

‘This is hardly the deal of the century and I suggest needs revisiting and the case much more vigorously argued for a fairer deal for Manx growers and producers whereby UK multiples cannot exploit a situation in which they know that by eliminating local producers they will have control of the market in basic foodstuffs.’

He said most small scale and independent retailers couldn’t compete without daily supplies of fresh bread and milk, and warned this would leave areas without a local shop.

He urged the government to enter into one to one talks with the islands major multiples and to lobby vigorously for the support of local produce on the grounds of quality, value and provenance.

‘The advantages they enjoy from our zero tax and open market policy needs to be strongly stated,’ he said.

Ramsey Bakery is responsbile for over 90 per cent of sales at Laxey Glen Mills but Mr Duncan said since 2000 its 800grm bread volumes had declined as ‘a direct result of lower priced bread imports’.

This had ‘reduced Laxey Glen Mills’ tonnage to a point that the Mill is no longer profitable with a further knock on effect to the growers who have lost over 1,000 tons of wheat production’.

Mr Duncan said: ‘The Laxey Glen Mill cannot continue to make losses but neither can Ramsey Bakery be expected to pay a price for flour that is calculated purely as a consequence of lack of volume.

‘An additional 500 tons of flour sold by the mill would increase their turnover by £250k and would totally change the fortunes of the mill and the growers.

‘If this was then converted into 800grm bread the effect would be to increase volumes at the bakery by over 500,000 loaves resulting in at least 15 additional full-time positions.’

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