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Update Food Festival Funding – FOI 10621

24 Aug

I posted about this Freedom Of Information Number 10621 on 19th August and was, let me say perturbed that wag food were unable to answer all my questions about food festival funding for this year.

To save you scrolling back, the questions that wag food couldn’t/wouldn’t answer are as follows:

  1. From which budgets or other sources of wag funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?
  2. What criteria do these festivals have to meet before they can apply for funding from other than the food festival budget?

 5 & 6. We do not hold any information regarding this point.

  1. As the budget for this year’s festivals is £160k, can you explain where the remainder of this budget will be allocated?

We do not hold any information regarding this point.

In their reply wag food told me that if I wasn’t satisfied with the response offered, I could go back to them and they would then do an official review. Well dear reader I have done just that and yesterday received acknowledgement from wag food under the subject banner of a complaint! Well as far as I’m concerned wag food can call it what they wish, but to make life easier they could simply answer my questions at the first time of my asking. I’ve no wish to have to go back to wag food for a review or as in their view my complaint, all I require is my questions answered under an FOI. But now, and hardly for the first time, I’ve to chase wag again for answers to an FOI. Wag are well aware that if I’m not satisfied with their review/complaint then I am allowed to go to the Information Commissioner’s Office and they will investigate on my behalf.

Welsh Country magazine has backed and supported Welsh food and drink for over a decade. We promsie our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers that we’ll pass on any relvant press releases, not that we get mnay through and also any foodie news to them. If they have any issues we’ll do our best to help, bearing in mind we’ve often to go to wag food to get any help………….

But that’s the system in place that I’m obliged to follow. Yet wouldn’t it be easier, quicker and cheaper for both parties if wag food would simply answer questions asked of them? How can wag and wag food  constantly forget that this is tax payers money they are spending?

 
 

Not Directly A Food Issue But………..

22 Aug

I’m aware of food and drink business, as we have at Welsh Country magazine, used Jobs Growth Wales.

So I’m grateful, but very annoyed to be informed today that the Labour Government has secretly cut its own job creation scheme. Jobs Growth Wales used to offer a 100% subsidy for firms to employ people aged between 16 – 24, but ministers have quietly slashed that subsidy to 50%, but without informing Assembly Members or the public.

Obviously I’m not the only one puzzled that we somehow, despite our elected Welsh Assembly Members, it feels more like we are living in a dictatorship. Shadow Secretary for the Economy, Russell George, said:

“Frankly, it’s appalling that a decision of this size can be implemented without having the courtesy to inform the public, or elected members. This is a profound change to a flagship scheme, which will undoubtedly affect take-up, and which has only come to light because a business has tipped off the media. Clearly we need to see stronger checks and balances placed on the Welsh Government. It’s not uncommon for Welsh Labour to sneak big announcements out via written statements, but this takes intransigence to new levels. It also highlights the hypocrisy at the core of their spin machine.

One minute the economy is in grave danger because of Brexit, now we’re told a 50% cut to their flagship job creation scheme is necessary because firms are doing too well. It makes no sense and I will be writing to the minister to seek clarity over the future of the scheme, and the budgetary implications of this dramatic cut to support.”

I’m puzzled by the government’s comments as our experience in the Welsh food and drink industry is that companies are not all doing well – let alone too well. To read this makes me cross when a £10k pay INCREASE for Assembly Members also basically went under the radar in fact I’m not sure that many  of the public are aware that Members got such an increase on top of their already ‘reasonable’ salary.

The problems with many governments is their ability to send out mix messages, should they send out any messages at all. Our economy is supposedly in grave danger from Brexit so our government’s idea is not to discuss it in the Senedd, but to go ahead and cut their own job creation scheme by 50%. You really couldn’t make this up!

 
 

Freedom Of Information Request 10621

19 Aug

I’m going around in ever decreasing circles trying to obtain what I think is basic information about food festival funding. I cannot understand why getting questions answered from wag food is so difficult nowadays. I thought this FOI would end the festival funding fiasco, but as all my questions have not been answered, it obviously isn’t. I now have to go back to wag and ask for a review and only then if my questions aren’t answered can I then go to the Information  Commissioner’s Office. Well it wont be the first time I’ve had to trudge that pathway to the ICO, but wag food seem happy to waste more time or as I see it, playing games. I’m not sure who these games benefit, but it certainly isn’t me! I’m totally puzzled as to why can’t tell me they don’t know where Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy are getting their government funding from?

Follows are my questions and wag’s answers, well some answers. Their response is shown in full.

 Thank you for your request which I received on 29th July 2016.  You asked for:

  1. Details of all food festivals that applied for funding in 2016 and received £5k.
  1. If not, what did each festival receive?

 

1 & 2 Details of Welsh Government funded Food Festivals are published at: https@//businesswales.gov.wales/foodanddrink/food-tourism. 

  1. Did any festivals apply for funding and were refused?
  2. If so on what grounds were they refused?

        

  3 & 4 No.

  1. From which budgets or other sources of wag funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?
  2. What criteria do these festivals have to meet before they can apply for funding  from other than the food festival budget?

 

5 & 6 We do not hold any information regarding this point.

  1. Can you clarify why wag are listed on Abergavenny’s website as a partner?
  2. Can you clarify why Conwy’s website states supported by wag with 4 wag logos? Are four logos mandatory? Or does it relate to the various wag sources they have taken funding from?

 

7 & 8 Historically these events have received support via Welsh Government and/or EU funding programmes.

      9. Although the deadline for completed applications is the 14th July 2016 and requests were being    approved within 2 weeks, there are still only nine festivals listed on Wag’s website can you inform me of    the others that have been approved?

 

As question 1 above. 

 10. As the budget for this year’s festivals is £160k, can you explain where the remainder of this budget will be allocated?

 

We do not hold any information regarding this point.

 

If you are dissatisfied with the Welsh Government’s handling of your request, you can ask for an internal review within 40 working days of the date of this response.  Requests for an internal review should be addressed to the Welsh Government’s Freedom of Information Officer at:

Information Rights Unit, Welsh Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NQ

or Email: FreedomOfInformationOfficer@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Please remember to quote the ATISN 9881 reference number.   (THIS IS AN INCORRECT NO. KR) Number

You also have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner.  The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:  Information Commissioner’s Office,

Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

However, please note that the Commissioner will not normally investigate a complaint until it has been through our own internal review.

 
 

Food Festival Funding – Was My Time Worth It?

18 Aug

I daren’t work out how much time and effort it has taken to get the second list of festival funding from the Welsh Government. Trying to get this information has been, to put it politely, frustrating. Add to this I’ve no idea why wag food think publishing the second list of food festivals mid August achieves much for anyone.

I was told by the press office that I would be sent a link to this second tranche of food festival funding but that would be next week, however a helpful person in wag food and yes I did say helpful, told me yesterday that the list would be available on Thursday and it was!!! Think this comes close to wag food and I having joined up writing, but even though I suspect only a temporary basis, it was a great help. This lsit will of course be sent around all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers as they have been the ones asking me questions.

This will surprise regular readers, but for once I was going to publish the list of food festivals in Welsh Country, but as our S/October issue went to press yesterday, that opportunity has been lost. But I am thinking now it’s perhaps better to let wag food get on with what they think works best for them. If I was a festival organiser, I’d not be happy, assuming the second list people have only just been informed, but as wag food have now put in a £5k limit then maybe they’d question why bother for the amount of paperwork they have to complete. But perhaps that’s just wag food being clever. If wag food continue to be slow to award any funding, perhaps festivals will either decide to stop their event or decide, somehow to do without any funding. As wag food want festivals to be self-supporting maybe this is their plan to achieve it. But will that help Welsh food and drink producers?

I’m aware that Abergavenny have not been pleased that their offering from wag food used to be £52k and now the maximum is £5k. So as this list doesn’t show funding to festivals such as Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff, where are they getting their funding from? These festivals have obviously decided agains going to wag food for funding so have they gone to Visit Wales and the Major Events Unit for their cash offering? I’ve asked a Freedom Of Information request to get that information and when I have the answer to that one, I’ll let you know. My other query is as I was told this year’s food festival budget  was £160k but adding totalling this list it accounts for £85, 068. So what happens to the remainder? Meanwhile here is the full list of wag funded festivals:

Welsh Government Supported Food Festivals 2016
Food Festival Festival Date Grant
Cowbridge Food Festival 29th  / 30th  May £5,000
Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival 11th June £2,581
Hay Summer Food Festival 1st July £2,351
Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival 3rd  July £5,000
Cardigan River and Food Festival 6th August £5,000
Big Welsh Bite 6th / 7th August £3,075
Menai Seafood Festival 20th August £5,000
Newtown Food & Community Festival 3rd  / 4th  September £5,000
St Fagans Food Festival 10th /11th  September £4,960
Gwyl Fwyd Beaumaris 10th /11th  September £5,000
Narbeth Food Festival 23rd / 25th  September £5,000
Margam Country Park Food Festival 24th / 25th  September £5,000
Newport Food & Drink Festival 1st October £5,000
Brecon Beacons Food Festival 1st October £4,750
Llangollen Food Festival 15th / 16th October £5,000
Llandudno Christmas Fayre 17th / 20th November £5,000
Hay Winter Food Festival 26th November £2,351
Portmeirion Christmas Food and Drink 2nd / 4th December £5,000
Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink 11th December £5,000
 
 

Still Waiting For The 2nd Lot Of Festival Funding

04 Aug

I’m finding life hard work trying to get information from the Welsh Food department. Please don’t ask me why, all I’m trying to do is my job, ask questions, get answers and not to be pushed around in circles which ultimately creates more work for everyone. It seems to me that wasting time is easier when you get paid at the end of each month, regardless of whether you’ve done a good job or a bad job.

At the moment I’m chasing to find out which festivals have been funding by wag food in the second batch. The closing date for this second tranche was 14th July and I was told these applications would be dealt within two weeks. Well dear Reader, that is a wag ‘two weeks’ because as on 3rd August there is nothing about the second lot on wag’s website. As far as I’m aware, wag food haven’t sent out a press releasebut I’m not sure. I was promised by wag that I was on their press mailing list, but for some reason, known only to them of course, I didn’t get the first food festival press release. So just in case that had happened again…….. I went on the wag’s website again, but there’s still nothing posted.

I’ve also asked the press office how Abergavenny food festival, Conwy food festival and Cardiff food festival are being funded this year. But I have been told again that ‘I’d agreed’ that I’d not ask them questions for welshfoodbites. Well that’s not  true.  I was told by the Welsh Government press office that they wouldn’t answer any questions for  a blog and that’s what welshfoodbites is. But that’s not my ‘agreeing’ to it when there wasn’t a choice offered to me. My other point is that any Welsh food & drink information that I think is relevant, I post on welshfoodbites, but also email it around our Best Of Welsh & Borders, (BOW) producers. I’m communicating with our producers, which can only be a good thing surely? However it seems that wag think our BOW producers are not important either.

I was told the Welsh Government is being transparent in it’s dealings, well what does that mean? Is it more wag words and no actions? Or is it just lip service to us, wag telling us what they think we want to hear? It just feels like it’s a further dig at Welsh Country and I can’t see why when we are trying to promote Welsh food and drink as we are promoting our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, as we promote any Welsh markets and Welsh food festivals that want to work with Welsh Country magazine. What is the problem with that? I simply don’t understand it.

But if I can’t talk to the press office I can use Freedom Of Information (FOI), so I can get questions answered, well that’s the theory anyway but I’ve met problems there too over the years. Then I can put those answers on welshfoodbites. So why can’t wag save time and money and simply answer my questions? That makse sense to me but sadly doesn’t  to wag.

Well as I can’t get that information on the three big ones from the press office of wag’s website, then my only other option is to send through a Freedom Of Information question which was done on 29th July. Today I still wait for an acknowledgment……………………………….

 
 

BOW Winners At Dairy Exhibitor Awards AT RWAS

21 Jul

Good news in that a number of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers were scooping the honours in the Dairy Produce Awards held at the Royal Welsh Show this week. Well done guys. Here they are just some of them as there were such a lot:

The Aeron Valley Cheese Masters Perpetual Trophy Awarded for Supreme Champion Cheese.

Caws Cenarth

The Eurwen Richards Award For The Best Produced Cheese.

Caws Cenarth

The Marks & Spencer Perpetual Trophy for The Best Regional Cheese.

Caws Cenarth

Special RWAS Prize Card & Rosette Awarded To President’s Preference In Cheese Section.

Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

The Caws Cenarth Perpetual Trophy Awarded For Excellence In Cheese Making HNOP.

Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Farmhouse Classes.

Traditional Welsh Caerphilly.

Place   Exhibitor     

1.  Caws Cenarth

2.  Caws Teifi Cheese

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Farmhouse Hard Pressed Cheese (excluding Caerphilly).

  1. Caws Teifi Cheese

2. Caws Teifi Cheese

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Farmhouse Smoked Cheese, Hard Pressed.

  1. Caws Teifi Cheese
  2. Caws Cenarth
  3. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Tonnes/Week, Any Variety, Cow’s Milk.

  1. Caws Cenarth
  2. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company
  3. Caws Teifi Cheese

Cheese, Any Variety, Not Cow’s Milk.

  1. Caws Cenarth
  2. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Cheese, Any Variety Not To Exceed 0.5kg, Any Milk.

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company
  2. Caws Cenarth
  3. Caws Teifi Cheese

New Cheese Not Previously Exhibited At RWAS, Any Variety, Any Milk.

  1. Caws Cenarth
  2. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Hard Cheese, Savoury Additive.

  1. Caws Teifi Cheese
  2. South Caernarfon Creameries
  3. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Hard Cheese, Sweet Additive.

  1. Caws Cenarth

Any Other Named Variety.

  1. Caws Cenarth

Soft Cheese, Any Variety, Natural (No Additives).

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company
  2. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Organic Cheese, Hard Variety.

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Organic Cheese, Soft Variety.

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company
  2. Caws Cenarth

One 250g Pack Of Salted Farm Butter, Any Milk.

  1. Bodnant Welsh Food

 

Best Of Welsh & Borders producers were awarded prizes in the yogurt classes prizes including: Village Dairy, Hufenfa’r Castell and Trioni Ltd.

 
 

Food Festival Funding

20 Jul

I’ve totally lost count of the number of emails I’ve sent to the press office asking for a list of food festivals that wag have funded for 2016. It has got more and more time consuming over the years to get this information from wag food. But why you might ask, as I obviously do? Well I haven’t a clue, it’s something I struggle to understand. Wag food have an obligation to provide this information as they are spending public money, but they have no obligation at all to be helpful and professional about doing so. Obviously I can only relate my experience, but I can say that it is annoying and disappointing.

Apparently this year the most festivals can ask for – and sometimes get – a maximum of £5k from this budget. But now I understand that festivals can ‘officially’ apply for funding from other wag budgets. Something which in the past wag food has said never happened, as festivals could only go for one source of government funding. Regular readers will recall my trying to find out which festivals got funding from the Major Events Unit, more information which was touch to getand ended up with my having to do a Freedom Of Information question. Festivals can now apply for funding in full of for ‘selected’ areas such as waste management.

The first batch of festivals being funded as of 20th June wag are:

Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival, Cowbridge (29/30 May)

Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival, Newcastle Emlyn (11 June)

Hay Summer Food Festival, Hay-on-Wye (1 July)

Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, Aberaeron (3 July)

Cardigan River & Food Festival, Cardigan (6 August)

Narberth Food Festival, Narberth (23-25 September)

Llangollen Food Festival, Llangollen (15/16 October)

Hay Winter Food Festival, Hay-on-Wye (26 November)

Christmas Food & Drink Fair, Abergavenny (11 December)

This is the first funding tranche as the official closing date for festival funding is 14th July. Festivals should then know two weeks later, around the 28th if they have been successful or not. As to when I’ll get details of this second tranche, I wouldn’t even hazard a guess.

Each year I say things can’t get worse getting information from wag food, but I’m constantly proved wrong, so thanks wag for a lack of communication, yes even to the press. All I want to know is which festivals wag food are funding, how much they are getting, which festivals have applied and not been successful. I like to know this information and I say early because we often put information on welshcountry.co.uk and welshfoodbites.co.uk. As a company we always also send this food festival information to all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, firstly because wag food don’t do so and secondly because our producers are interested to know who gets what, which is fair enough as it’s our money. So I get this list last week of nine festivals that have been funded and four of them have already been and gone!

Food festival funding was a question I got asked about on Monday at the RWAS, but I could only relay the info. I’d got however did suggest producers could ask wag food staff. Of course I was being silly as it seems like me our producers have little idea who wag food staff are.

Wag food must have their reasons for changing the food festival funding again, but they are reasons they are not sharing, purely because they don’t have too, rather than no-one would be interested. But to only get the first list of festivals mid July is not a great deal of use. Yes of course it makes me cross when Welsh Country magazine set out its stall – sorry poor pun – to promote Welsh food and drink. I don’t know which festivals applied and got rejected. I still don’t know how much the likes of Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy festivals have been funded this year either. Perhaps wag food think I haven’t a right to know this information, but if they don’t tell me then I’ll have to send through another Freedom Of Information question. But why should this be necessary?

I was further insulted by wag food last week when they didn’t even send me the press release relating to food festival funding, although it was sent to other Welsh media! This is despite their promise that Welsh Country magazine would receive all food and drink press releases. Welsh Country magazine, the pan Wales magazine that has supported/promoted Welsh food and drink for over a decade is left off wag food’s press mailing list, who would believe that?

Do you think I should take this latest insult personally………………….?

 
 

Another Waste Of My Time

08 Jul

As Mike from Cwm Deri Vineyard was prepared to share his eviction from Narbeth – for update see post dated 17th June as Local Producers Don’t Get Priority At Funded Festivals – I thought you’d be interested in an update.

Both Mike and I have contacted one of his AMs and she is going to take his complaint forward, but was frnak from the outset, saying there was no likelihood that anything will chang efor Mike this year., which I understand. So my next plan of action was to ‘talk’ to wag food, althogh in theory I’m supposed to go through the press office. But I thought it worth a try and crafted a detailed email. I explained the back sotry on Mike and his long standing supprt for Narbeth. I queried the Narbeth committee’s reason to ‘vary the visitor experience’ as their justification for throwing Mike out and I suggested that variety could be achieved by the music, the street and childre’s entertainment that the event uses each year.

I still cannot accept that punters if they ARE surveyed, are saying although this is a yearly food festival, I still want the food stalls changed each year. If you bought some delicous cheese, jam, beer or wne last year wouldn’t you want to buy it again? Narbeth’s reasoning doesn’t make sense to me, but seemingly does to wag food. But in the interest of variety, Narbeth style, do you think the Devon fishcake man will be thrown out too?

I maintain as I have constantly done so, that wag food are not backing local professional producers, but instead is encouraging food miles. Which goes completely against the Welsh Government’s Policy. Wag food create their own Welsh food festival criteria, so perhaps ensuring the number of Welsh food and drink producers be raised to 90% and priority given first to local ‘professional’ producers. This would eliminate silly situations like this.

Narbeth cannot state that they are championing local producers when they have just thrown out Pembrokeshire’s local wine producer. 

The objectives of the Food Festival Grant scheme 2016 published by wag food state:

  • Improve Visitor Access to and awareness of Welsh Food and Drink.
  • Encourage Welsh hospitality businesses to source more local food and drink.
  • Increase the prevalence of Welsh Food and Drink on menus and retail offering.

I am sure some of you will have seen a company called Wavehill doing some food festival evaluations, which of course we/wag food have paid for. Here’s a snippet from one of their reports:

Wavehill 14/15 food festival evaluation

  • An average (mean) rating of 3.6 out of 4 illustrates a high degree of enjoyment across the surveyed festivals. Furthermore, almost two thirds of attendees felt certain their awareness of local food and produce had increased as a result of their attendance at the festival that day, whilst a further 27% felt it probably had.
  • In addition, the FD was keen on evaluating the following elements:
  • Would the festival continue without FD support (to what extent is the festival moving towards a model that is self-sustaining)?
  • Is the event considered to be an exemplar of the Promotion of Welsh Produce to visitors in and outside Wales?
  • The quality of the event.
  • The involvement of Food Tourism Providers – are they Championing Local Producers? 
  • The number of Food & Drink Producers, who these producers are, in addition to the numbers of Welsh Producers.

Confirmation that the festival organisers had used the Welsh Government financial contribution in the manner outlined in their application.

Then I can go back to the former Minister of Rural Affairs, Elin Jones:

From Food for Wales – Food from Wales 2010 – 2020

Food is a basic necessity for us all, as well as a key industry. It creates vital employment and is critical to our security and wellbeing. It is a source of robust health and a celebration of culture. Wales is rapidly gaining a credible, national and international reputation for its innovative food and drink and hospitality sector. Thanks to our producers, our unique geography, climate and farming practices, Wales can boast of a range of high quality foods, from our iconic Welsh lamb and beef to cheeses and Welsh seafood. The food and drink industry is important to the economy and the people of Wales; the UK Agri-Food sector contributes up to 7% (£79.4 billion) of UK Gross Value Added. Through careful informed planning and working together it is vital that we increase this and I have every confidence that we can build on our success achieved so far to ensure a thriving, developing industry in the years to come.

There are complex and cross cutting issues around food, such as making sure everyone continues to have access to the food they need, which requires an economically and environmentally sustainable industry capable of withstanding global pressures and meeting the challenges that climate change presents us with. Food issues are key to us all as consumers, throughout the industry, and as a Government. Reconnecting with food and how it’s produced is a fundamental message that reaches out to all those engaged in the future of food supply in Wales. This Strategy sets the overall direction – it cannot deal in detail with every area of policy it will affect. As Minister for Rural Affairs for the Welsh Assembly Government I am keen for Wales to do the best we can to ensure a sustainable food system which meets our economic and ecological priorities. To achieve this we need to reach out to

all parts of Government to ensure we work together to share agendas and make better connections.

The food chain accounts for 31% of greenhouse gas emissions within the EU (17% of total Welsh emissions), and we all have a part to play in addressing these issues. Working together, we can look to readdress these imbalances by looking to source food locally, eat seasonally, and reduce food miles; consequently reducing carbon emissions. We also need to look to reduce our food packaging which contributes to waste and landfill and increase the creation of bio diverse habitats for wildlife.

From the same source:

This Strategy sets the overall direction – it cannot deal in detail with every area of policy it will affect. This Strategy will however act as a common framework to inform our existing food action plans, such as those for horticulture, red meat, organic, dairy, local sourcing, food tourism, and fisheries, and act as a basis for a delivery plan to implement our aspirations. This overarching Strategy is for ten years, but delivery plans will be set over shorter timescales.

From the same source:

Principles

  • Local and locality branded foods from Wales should be developed and promoted to markets in Wales, the rest of the UK, and more widely;

From the same source:

  1. Increasing knowledge about food in our communities will help to develop a stronger

food culture, which can stimulate the demand for good quality and locally produced food.

From the same source:

  1. The general principles of a low carbon diet are eating local, seasonal food, wasting less food, minimising energy used in cooking and storage, taking fewer trips to the supermarket, and ensuring that a balance is achieved on carbon intensive food such as red meat and dairy products.

From the same source:

Food and Tourism

Tourism provides an excellent example of an area of Government influence in which food can play a key role. Good quality food and food service can enhance the reputation of Wales as a leading sustainable

tourism destination. Provision of Welsh food at tourist outlets can promote economic development and boost environmental and cultural tourism. This approach can make for a tourist experience that is highly valued, encouraging the return of visitors to Wales.

The Food Tourism Action Plan encourages the use of food as a tool to increase the attractions of Welsh rural areas illustrated by the achievements of Monmouthshire and Pembrokeshire, which were the first two winners of the Food Destination Awards under the True Taste scheme.

In addition, research by the Mid Wales Food and Land Trust in 2006 concluded that, of the visitors surveyed, 82% stated that provision of good locally produced food was a very important part of their holiday experience and they would pay up to 13% extra to experience it.

From the same source:

(From Food Tourism Action Plan, Welsh Assembly Government, 2009)

CHAPTER 7

Summary of the aspirations and direction of the Food Strategy

1.Local and locality branded foods from Wales will be developed and promoted to markets in Wales, the rest of the UK, and the world.

Well the first surprise was I did get a response some two weeks later, the second surprise, well no it wasn’t a surprise, I got no help at all. Despite a few emails going to and fro, I was told my comments will be discussed with Food Festival Organisers when they meet with wag food. So that was a surprise as I’d no idea food festival organisers were still having meetings, but in fairness why should wag food keep me in the loop on that one?

Then I was told to take my individual points to directly to Narberth Food Festival. Well that was useful – not!!! Why is Narbeth going to answer my questions when wag food, the Paymaster, can’t be bothered taking up Mike’s case on the grounds that each festival is responsible for organising their own exhibiting area and food producers. This to me is a cop out, if wag food are paying, then shouldn’t food festivals be adhering to wag food’s policies? Does this not run along joined up government writing?

Wag food, the department that we pay for to promote Welsh food and drink, gives us Food & Drink policies, stating what must happen to promote food and drink in Wales, but then does little to fulfil them. These policies are only wag words, without any action. I’m stunned that wag food are telling me to talk to Narbeth.

Mike believes his feedback form might be to blame for his eviction, as he stated it should be professional producers at a fesitival and not a stand buying from the Cash & Carry and re-packaging stock. When I asked wag food if they saw the feedback forms they said no – but each event has to maintian feedback as part of their Quality-Systems and to maintain or better their producer /visitor experience in the future. So this proves that if organisers cannot accept constructive criticism, then traders must only put pleasant comments on feedback forms to ensure they get an invite back. So someone please explain how will feedback forms maintain or better their producer/visitor experience? Well obviously they’ll be another waste of time but again another area which wag food have ignored. So the outcome is that Mike has had to find another event, which is not only more expensive to trade at, it’s not local to him so his food miles are massively increased, plus he’s to pay for a hotel too!

To wrap up this post, I wasn’t sure that wag food would help, so it’s as I stated at the start, this is just another waste of my time talking to or at a food department which will not listen. Of course I’m disappointed/furious with the outcome of this scenario. But on a rare positive note from this post, perhaps I should just be grateful to have got two responses, such as they were, more like whitewash to me!

You couldn’t make this up, you really couldn’t…………………………….

 

 
 

Farmers Are Perhaps Not Best To Run A Business?

06 Jul

Panic not, these are not my words, but words from the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths. Follows is a press release from the Welsh Conservative Party, published in full.

I think farmers are perhaps not the best people to run a business” says Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs

Welsh Conservatives are calling for the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs to make an immediate apology following comments made in a plenary debate where she said that farmers are “not the best people to run a business.”

The comments, made by Labour AM Lesley Griffiths on the 22nd of June, are likely to cause a great deal of offence to Wales’ farming community which has 14,000 registered businesses in Wales and generates a £5.7bn annual turnover. They were made in response to a question about the Welsh Government’s Rural Development Plan, which now two years into being has produced limited results, despite promises from the previous Minister for Farming and Food that the plan would have a “transformational” effect on the rural economy.

Speaking inside the Senedd Chamber, Lesley Griffiths AM said:

“We do need to see much more of a transformational change, and we need to do that in partnership with the farmers. I also think we need to look at how we can help them with the sustainability and the resilience of their businesses, and to look at the business side of it, because I think farmers, certainly in my very early discussions with them, are perhaps not the best people to run a business. They haven’t that kind of business perspective…” (22 June 2016)

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies said:
“I call on the Cabinet Secretary to make an immediate apology to the farming community of Wales, who will no doubt be taken aback by her comments. Farmers in Wales contribute billions to the Welsh economy – they directly employ 48,000 people and are among the most industrious and entrepreneurial members of our business community. To say that ‘farmers are not the best people to run a business’ is not only highly offensive but calls into question whether she is in fact the right person to take this brief forward. It simply betrays her ignorance of this vital artery of the Welsh economy. I would suggest that the Cabinet Secretary takes some time to reflect on her ill-considered comments and would invite her to meet with a number of my friends who run highly successful farming businesses.”

Well I wonder if Ms Griffiths was ever tried farming for a living? My guess is not. Just as I doubt if she’s tried to run a food or drink business either. It’s easy to stand back and criticise, but when you have no idea at all how tough and stressful a life it is working off the land and producing food and drink, words are easy but in this case tactless and rude. A life often spent battling the elements, battling red tape and battling a government that doesn’t seem to care and certainly doesn’t undestand the problems that are faced on a daily basis by farmers and producers is not helpful.

According to wag’s website Lesley Griffiths, who all of you will be aware is now Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, lists her political interests to include health, economic development, housing and children’s issues. So is she the best person to take on the environment and rural affairs, which of course includes Welsh food and drink? Well not to me it doesn’t, but those choices are not ours, that’s down to the First Minister Carwyn Jones. You might be wondering why Ms. Griffiths is called a Cabinet Secretary not a Minister. Well as I understand it, this change is to follow Westminster and makes me think this is a lot to do with a more powerful title and therefore a bigger salary…………………

Well those are the views of Ms Griffiths, farmers not fit to run a business, so my question to this government is, have we got politicians fit to run our country?

Answers on a postcard please, no sorry, being flip, email me or leave your comments on here.

 

 
 

Local Producers Don’t Get Priority At Funded Festivals

17 Jun

I’m sorry to have to post again about this topic but it’s only by doing this that perhaps wag food and festival organisers will take notice and change things for the better.

So it’s time to put names to this latest problem which has been brought to my attention. I only do this when it has been agreed and I understand that many producers with issues at festivals are too scared to raise problems in many instances. The festival in question  is Narbeth food festival, a super festival which Ian and I have attended for many years. It’s a great festival vibrant, busy and with a good selection of Welsh food and drink producers. But then I was told that  Mike Caine from Cwm Deri Estate has been evicted from this year’s festival, I was cross. No, not cross, I was furious. Narbeth is his local festival; it’s literally down the road from him and he’s been attending it from its early days when it ran in the Queens Hall.

Mike is an advertiser in Welsh Country magazine and one of our loyal Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, the other bonus is he makes exceedingly great wine. We have always said we’ll work

Mike has written and explained his position and the Narbeth Committee have responded saying:

Our space is limited and each year we strive to vary the visitor experience by engaging with a number of new stallholders. Given the space limitations of the festival site and the need to have a wide variety of different products for sale this means that, inevitably, difficult decisions have to be made with some regular stallholders being disappointed.

Obviously space is limited, it generally is, but I simply don’t understand what the committee are saying. ‘Varying the visitor experience’, why does that relate to food stands and not to their music, street entertainment, kids entertainment or the many government funded Quango stands? If you were a regular holiday visitor to Narbeth festival and wanted to find your favourite cheese stall, beer stand or wine stand, wouldn’t you be seriously miffed if your much-loved stand had been thrown out by a committee vote? Well that’s if there was a vote. What I cannot understand is why a funded festival is not made to support local professional producers first and foremost. Last year I remember a stall selling sweets but they’d seemingly been to the cash and carry and repackaged them. How is that local produce? How could they be given a stand? Where they professional traders? No. As I understand it they both had full-time jobs and this was just for spare cash. I know this for a fact as Ian always ask new traders for business cards or flyers and of course this stand didn’t have anything at all but jars of sweets. I can also remember a stand, maybe the previous year, that just had paper plates with food on them making faces. Those types of stands cannot be more worthwhile than having a professional local producer take a stand.

PLease don’t think I ever underestimate the hard work that goes into putting on a food festival. There’s a huge number of people that give up their time for free, work long and hard to bring a great event into their area and get very little thanks. But what I want organisers and wag food to understand that this is what our professional traders do this for a living. They, like me, don’t get any guaranteed money in their bank at the end of the month unless we sell something. That scenario I’m sure must be hard to imagine for those in safe and secure jobs, but that doesn’t mean it should not be taken into account and treated as a priority. I’m talking professional producers not the ‘Pin-Money’ brigade that just want to earn some extra cash, which might not well be declared for tax purposes. Now Mike has to find another event to boost his potential income for September, which means he’ll be lucky IF he can find something and IF they’ll accept him at this late stage. He’ll end up travelling further which means his earnings will be reduced. However wag food are in words at least very keen on food miles.

Narbeth have told him he can re-apply next year. But can anyone reading this believe that’s a viable option for Mike? Are the committee next year are going to sit down and say ‘oh we threw this loyal trader out last year, but maybe in 2017 we’ll let him back in…….really?

Producers have to plan their events each year; they’ve to work out which events were worthwhile and how they can boost their income for the new year. Can organisers not appreciate how difficult this is and how stressful? Yet this is even more crucial when you have got staff relying on you for their wages, not to mention your own mortgage etc.

I’m gutted for Mike and I’m struggling to understand Narbeth’s thinking and their lack of loyalty. However this is just one example, as there are other festivals, including Abergavenny, that sometimes use the same excuse to throw professional producers out. The difference here is that Mike is OK for me to air his experience, but many others haven’t wanted me to do anything, just to be aware they can get thrown out on a whim. Plus the obvious fear producers might never get back in – even if they wanted to.

Mike has written to Narbeth and explained his position, but that’s proved pointless. Now I’m talking to his AM and also to wag food by email and will keep you posted if anything does happen. I will not stop working hard for Welsh food and drink but just wish it wasn’t such hard work and common sense was more commonly available! One option is to take to social media, but I’m not sure that’s the right way to go, but it would be a way of Mike telling his customers why he’ll not be at Narbeth this year and if he’s found a replacement event.

It’s pointless my wishing things would change with food festivals because nothing really ever does. Wag food are happy that we go around in circles and as they’ve the money to pay the piper as it were, this looks to continue.