Formal tenders are to be sought from operators wishing to run the Island’s meat plant or to provide equivalent services from alternative on-Island premises.
The announcement comes after the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) gauged interest informally by inviting potential operators to contact it with broad plans.
The plant, at Tromode, is run by Isle of Man Meats, a cooperative of farmers, and requires an annual Government subvention. In 2016 this rose to over £1.3 million.
It’s hoped a private operator will make it more competitive and save public money while providing an essential service to the Island.
Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, said: ‘During the month-long process of establishing levels of interest, seven parties came forward and we have interviewed all of them.
‘It is heartening that there is sufficient interest to warrant us moving to the next stage of the process, which is to invite formal tenders, and that will happen as soon as possible.
‘Tenderers will be expected to present strong business cases and marketing plans and commit to standards of service.’
It is hoped to complete the process of appointing a new operator by the end of this year.
In the interim, the Department will continue to financially support the current operation of the plant.
The proposal to seek a private operator emerged from a steering group that considered an industry expert’s report on ways of making the plant more profitable.
The steering group comprised DEFA, Isle of Man Meats, the Manx National Farmers’ Union and the Agricultural Marketing Society.
The proposal was presented to the agriculture industry at a meeting in February.
DEFA told the meeting that an on-Island meat processing facility was a strategic asset for farming and the food industry.
The plant is experiencing reduced throughput and local sales, a trend it’s hoped would be reversed by a commercial operator.