A $6-million grant promised by Ottawa for the Maritimes' only federally inspected beef plant is going to be a loan instead, CBC News has learned.

'It leaves the plant in a position of the federal government not having met its commitment.' — MP Wayne Easter

The grant money was part of a provincial-federal $12-million aid package for the struggling Atlantic Beef Products announced in December 2007. Each of the three Maritime provinces was to put up $2 million with the remainder coming from the federal government.

Money has been coming from the provinces, but nothing yet from Ottawa. P.E.I. government officials told CBC News on Thursday that ACOA told them several months ago the money would be coming through as a loan. Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter said that is unacceptable.

"That money was promised two years ago and the plant hasn't seen a penny of that money as yet," said the P.E.I. MP.

"Even worse is the fact, now I gather, that what was thought to be a grant is now in fact a loan. It leaves the plant in a position of the federal government not having met its commitment."

John Thompson, president of Atlantic Beef Products, said the terms of the three-year loan are still being worked out, but he's confident the first of the money will come in the next few weeks.

"We're in the process of finalizing those conditions to ensure that we meet the requirements of the federal government," said Thompson.

"We're looking at disbursement of a couple of million dollars for the first year and we're looking at another two disbursements after that."

P.E.I. agriculture officials said they're continuing to lobby to convince Ottawa to turn the loan back into a grant.