Agriculture Minister Clare Barber has moved to end long-running issues around the payment to farmers for their wool.

In an open letter to farmers, which the Isle of Man Examiner has seen exclusively, Mrs Barber said that the contract with Brannach Olan to collect, grade and sell the wool, has been terminated.

She said: ‘On June 23 an advert was placed on the procurement portal for the provision of wool marketing services for the 2023 clip onwards. Our timeline would see the new contractor appointed by July 23, with the intention to open the wool clip by September 1 at the latest.

She used the opportunity to apologise to farmers over the long running payment dispute and to respond to an Examiner headline claiming that her Department had ‘misled’ farmers over the problems that had arisen.

Mrs Barber said: ‘As a government department we have been in a contractual relationship with Brannach Olann, and for legal reasons we have been extremely limited on what information we have been able to share. Today I am pleased to now be in a position where I am able to give a full update.’

As stated in the original newspaper report, Mrs Barber confirmed that the government’s ‘quick quote’ process had been used when awarding the contract to Brannach Olan. This is typically used for contracts awarded under the value of £100,000.

She went on: ‘This process was followed and Brannach Olann were selected as the successful party, with the Attorney General’s Chambers awarding the contract on the procurement portal.

‘I think it is important to highlight here that the exchange of a signed contract would not be standard in this process, for the avoidance of doubt the contract was made up of the standard Isle of Man Government terms and conditions together with the quick quote and quick quote response. The use of Isle of Man Government terms and conditions is standard in the vast majority of quick quotes.

‘Within the first year of the contract, officers in the Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture became aware that the wool contractor was encountering difficulties in fulfilling the contract. Initially this came from Covid-19 movement restrictions and then from challenges in obtaining the necessary details to enable payment to some farmers.

‘The Manx National Farmers’ Union was also highlighting to officers the difficulties being faced by farmers in receiving payment. Whilst action has been taken to address the challenges, on reflection my department could have, and should have, responded much earlier to addressing these issues and for this I do sincerely apologise.’

•You can read Mrs Barber’s open letter in full in this week’s Isle of Man Examiner, which is in the shops now.