Draft flour milling contract would force producers into a ‘below cost of production’ scenario according to the Manx National Farmers’ Union.

This was said in an open letter from the MNFU regarding a draft contract from Laxey Glen Mill.

Following the closure of Ramsey Bakery in April last year, the publicly owned Laxey Glen Mill has had more wheat available to it, than orders made for flour.

Last month Agriculture Minister Clare Barber said that currently the mill has 900 tonnes of wheat available to it.

The open letter said; ‘The draft contract as issued cannot reasonably be considered to be fair, or indeed realistic, and gives no regard to the investment the sector has made to produce a high-quality product for the Island.

‘The contract in its current form would force producers into a “below cost of production” scenario and consequently risk even further the island’s food security.’

The letter adds: ‘It appears that Laxey Glen Mill directors have cherry-picked standards and terms from the United Kingdom contracts, but only where suits.’

Where the union says that some aspects of the contract such as bushel weight and protein are the same standards as the United Kingdom, the union says there is a ‘notable’ difference in the milling wheat bonus offer.

The letter says: ‘Laxey Glen Mill is offering £25, which is far below the £70 to £80 bonus available in the UK.

‘The cost of haulage has also now been passed to the grower, when in the past this has been a cost borne by the buyer.

‘It is similarly noted that there is now no consideration for cost of on-farm storage.

‘Producers unanimously opposed the cost of production option being excluded from the contract.

‘The directors will be aware that milling wheat, if grown at all, will need to be exported if producers are to stay afloat, and have deliberately exploited this in the draft contract presented.

‘It is of no benefit to our local economy if Laxey Glen Mill need to import product due to lack of reasonable negotiation with producers.

‘As always, the milling wheat producers wish to work with Laxey Glen Mills to achieve best outcomes for growers, the Mill, their customers’ and the island’s population.

The union is requesting a meeting to re-negotiate the terms of the contract so that it ‘reflects the investment the milling wheat sector has made’.

In the House of Keys last month, Claire Barber said: ‘We had a recent session where we talked with milling wheat growers, bakers and millers.

‘Some of the farmers have been able to find alternate markets, but equally I’m aware that for some were providing almost uniquely to the Laxey Glen Mill meaning there are significant challenges.’

She added: ‘Ultimately it will be a decision for the stakeholders and for the board of the mill as to how they proceed with purchasing what they require.’

Laxey Glen Mill declined to comment.