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Archive for October, 2010

HRH Launches The London Welsh Lamb Club

29 Oct

Although I have yet to be told by HCC or the Press Office  – I thought you’d be interested in this Press Release from HRH The Prince Of Wales 

The Prince of Wales helped launched an initiative to promote Welsh lamb at Clarence House today. His Royal Highness is a keen supporter of British farming and the new London Welsh Lamb Club will promote Welsh lamb as a premium brand, and encourage increased demand from consumers in London and the South East which in turn will improve market prices for farmers in Wales.

Restaurateurs who join the London Welsh Lamb Club are given a certificate to display in their eateries which confirms the meat being served has been verified as Welsh lamb.

The organisation was established by the Welsh red meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) to capitalise on the growing interest in the produce and it already has 50 members with more waiting to be accredited.

Part of this success has been attributed to Welsh Lamb having been granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status from the European Commission. Other UK foodstuffs that enjoy PGI status include Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb, and Welsh Beef.

Those already signed up include a number of gastropubs and high-end restaurants like Odette’s in Primrose Hill, run by Welsh chef Bryn Williams, and Irish chef Richard Corrigan’s restaurant in Mayfair.

In a speech The Prince, who keeps Lleyn sheep at his Highgrove Estate in Gloucestershire, told his guests:  “Bearing in mind the sheep’s unerring desire to commit suicide, it really is a miracle anything ever arrives on anyone’s plate. I spend my life trying to extract sheep stuck in fences or upside down somewhere or other, or marooned on rock ledges or at the bottom of cliffs as the tide comes in.

“Or the ones that very, very slowly cross the road in front of your car or those held fast in a bramble bush.

“In fact I dare say almost at this moment my eldest son may be rescuing one stuck half way up a mountain in between other damsels in distress.”

Welsh Lamb was granted Protected Geographical Indication status from the European Commission in 2004 helping to preserve its uniqueness.

The Prince has been a long time supporter of Welsh lamb and guests were served a lamb stew, made with carrots, cabbage and swedes, made with meat from mid-Wales farms who are members of his Cambrian Mountain Initiative – which promotes rural enterprise.

Other popular producers from Wales include Elwy Valley near Denbigh in the North of the country.

The HCC hopes to widen the club to cover the rest of the country and believes their project will see more people eating varieties of the meat like saltmarsh lamb, from areas like the Gower coast near Swansea, or the more widely known hill lamb.

Martin Lam, proprietor of Ransomes Dock Restaurant, in Battersea said:  “Welsh lamb has always had a good reputation but what the good farms in Wales have done is bring it back into the market as a regional speciality.

“People might not ask for it but they recognise it when they see it on the menu.”

 
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Press Office Under Pressure……….

29 Oct

welshfoodbites seems to be causing a stir in the Welsh Assembly Governmet, WAG Press Office. It appears the Press Office haven’t time to answer questions for welshfoodbites.

Last week, I was asked by the Press Office to go through them with any queries relating to WAG, rather than going to any WAG officials directly.

This week, I have been asked whether my queries are for Welsh Country magazine or for www.welshfoodbites.co.uk    Well this rather puzzled me, did this means that there were two different answers to a question? Well according to Press Office, that’s not quite the case. If my questions are meant for www.welshfoodbites.co.uk – then the Press Office will not answer them. Officially the Press Office haven’t time to answer questions for a blog and also say they if it’s for a blog they don’t have the option to respond. When I disagreed and explained that they were allowed to comment and it was easy to do so, the response was that Civil Servants are not allowed to respond to a blog.  Apparently if Civil Servants give me a statement for Welsh Country magazine, or I make an incorrect comment about WAG in print, I’m legally obliged to publish it again, correctly, if asked by them to do so. But as far as www.welshfoodbites is concerned, I’m not allowed any answers. 

Well I’m a journalist and part of my job description is to ask questions and…………………… listen to the answers. So in future if I do want answers for www.welshfoodbites then I will not waste further time going through the Press Office, I’ll use other means………………………..

If you have any thoughts or views on this or any other food matter(s) – I’d love to hear them. I promise they will not be published by me anywhere unless requested to do so.

 
 

Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival Grabs A Tourism Award

26 Oct

At the National Tourism Awards ceremony held last week, Cowbridge Food festival grabbed the award for Best Event (Community). This comes as no surprise to me and I do hope it encourages even more visitors to this years’ festival, which takes place this weekend, 30th – 31st October. Reserve in this category is another of my favourite food festivals, the Really Wild Food & Countryside festival held in St David’s in September. Abergavenny were just pipped to the post in the Best Event (Large) category as they were runner-up to the Hay Festival.

I am so pleased to see these fabulous foodie events gain recognition from the Tourism industry. Look forward to seeing you at Cowbridge festival, it really is a great event and very friendly.

 
 

BBC’s Jamie Owen Will Host The True Taste Food & Drink Awards

25 Oct

 BBC’s Jamie Owen, is hosting the Welsh Food Oscars at next month’s Wales the True Taste Food and Drink Awards 2010-11 on November 11th at the Withybush Showground in Haverfordwest.

Pembrokeshire born Jamie presents BBC Wales’  – Today programme – as well as being joint host of the BBC Radio Wales’ daily flagship programme – Jamie & Louise.

I have been on Jamie’s radio programme many times when they invited an Editor of the Day in. It was always good fun to chat with Jamie and Louise and of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity to plug some local food matter or a forthcoming food festival. Sadly a change of producers meant Editor of the Day was changed, but I’m delighted that Jamie and Louise have retained their passion for local produce.

A few years ago I attended a Visit Wales conference that Jamie has hosting and I was impressed by his professionalism. He was the ideal person to ensure that delegates did get answers to their questions without being fobbed off!

I’m sure that Jamie will be an excellent host for the Welsh Assembly Government’s important flagship food event.

 
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Processing & Marketing Grant

22 Oct

I heard on my food grapevine that the PMG Scheme had been scrapped – but not been told offically. I have now gone through the Press Office for a comment and received a response today.

 A Welsh Assembly Government Spokesperson said: “The Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme has been suspended at this time and was closed to all new applicants from Friday 10 September 2010. 157 projects have already received a total grant of £25,661,037 for a total project value of £73,609,356. The remainder of the budget available has been allocated for the projects now in appraisal.  Following the Comprehensive Spending Review, consideration will be given to future budgetary allocations.”

 This is a blow to food producers, but sadly I guess this is just the start of things to come……………..

 
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True Taste Awards 2010

20 Oct

Pembrokeshire are hosting the awards ceremony this year at the Haverfordwest Showground on Thursday 11th November. Known in Wales as ‘the Oscars’ of the food industry it’s important for the food producers that they get the recognition that they deserve.

Talking to our Best Of Welsh producers over the last few weeks, I have been told of a few that are in the running for an award. Unfortunately I cannot share the names of our Best Of Welsh producers with you as I haven’t been told ‘officially’.  Despite spending valuable time trawling the truetastewales and the truetastetv websites, I couldn’t find a list there – which was annoying.

So as I have been asked not to go to WAG officials directly, but to direct my enquiries to the Welsh Assembly Government Press Office, this was what I had to do. I thought maybe I had just not been told, but that’s not the case, the reason I don’t know is that a press released has not been issued yet. I have been told that a press release will be sent out shortly………………………………………………….

No-one’s explained why a shortlist wasn’t available earlier – but goodness knows it should have been. It is such a shame that the producers could be missing out on, at the least, some coverage in their local papers. With only 3 weeks to go our producers through WAG Food, are missing out on promotional opportunities and there’s really no excuse for that, is there?

 
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‘Taste Dolgellau’

18 Oct

On Saturday I took a day out to travel north and visit a ‘Taste Dolgellau’. I had a look at their website during the week and thought it was a type of food festival, but I’d got it wrong. However, on the drive up north, I called into Aberystwyth as I had forgotten the Farmers Market was on. I haven’t been there for such a long time and it was good to see some of our Best of Welsh producers supporting this market. It was reasonably busy whilst I was there and hopefully the local people will continue to give the producers their regular support in the coming months.

I popped into Caesar’s for coffee, which is one of my favourite places and is also conveniently placed alongside the market in North Parade. Caesar’s is a really friendly place with a great food selection, much of it local – and they offer great value for money too. I had a quality mocha coffee, biscuit and service with a smile for just £1.30. Last week I was in Neath for the food festival and in another café I was charged £2.50 for just the same thing, no sorry it wasn’t the same thing – the smile and quality was missing!

Anyway back to Dolgellau, I spotted a banner going into the town which was good, but when I had parked up, I was puzzled as I wasn’t sure if anything was happening, I thought there would be tradestands there, but there weren’t any. So  after wandering around I called into a café by a very empty car-park, that had a poster for ‘Taste Dolgellau’ in their window and asked them where the foodie event was being held.  Well they thought it started on Sunday, but they meant the regular farmers market and then one of the waitresses said she knew they were foraging at Graig Wen, so that wasn’t much help. Next stop was the Tourist Information Centre, but the door was locked although there was a light and people inside. Eventually the TIC gentleman manning it came out and said I couldn’t go in it was now his 30 min lunch break and he’d open again at 1.00pm. The couple trying to follow me in, walked away unimpressed, but I delayed his break even further by asking about the food event and he did then give me a booklet. I found the other couple and explained what was happening at the TIC but as they were visitors it certainly didn’t give them a good impression of Dolgellau.

‘Taste Dolgellau’  – I had the concept totally wrong, it was a weekend of events featuring local food in cafes, hotels, B&Bs and activities in this very beautiful area with stunning Snowdonia scenery. And yes the farmers amrket was being held that Sunday.

I do congratulate those involved in putting on this event, it must have taken a great deal of organisation, but my feeling is that restaurants, holes and cafes shouldn’t just be showcasing local food for this event and I really do hope that is not the case and this was meant to promotoe the area too. It is so important that local food should be on every menu, every day and giving customers a more information, not just say Welsh bacon and sausage – say who has supplied your bacon and sausage. We must remind local people and impress our much needed visitors  the amazing array of local produce that we are fortunate to have on our doorstep – we really cannot afford the keep our superb local food a secret.

 
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Chefs At Food Festivals

18 Oct

Most food festivals have invite ‘celebrity’ chefs to do cooking demonstrations and there is no doubt how very popular they are, drawing really good audiences. Now I know may of the chefs aren’t a cheap addition to an event by any means, but what I think should be insisted on is that the chefs must cook using produce from the producers taking tradestands at the event. To my mind it is not just common sense it is only fair. The producers are the ones paying to attend, so what better way to help their sales and encourage visitors to then purchase, than by watching these talented chefs cook produce from the festival tradestands. I don’t want to witness that the chef teams have already done their shopping before they arrive at the festival, especially when they are patronising the big four supermarkets. There is absolutely no excuse for this going on. I want to see our chefs buying as much as possible from the festivals themselves and when that is really impossible I still want them to buy Welsh. The chefs above all should be really getting behind our producers much much more. 

I’d also say to producers that when you see these chefs wandering around the festivals, shout them over to your stand, tell them what you are producing and ask if you can help them  or maybe supply their hotel or restaurant, it’s not being pushy, it’s simply being proactive – and in these tough trading times it’s what we all must do to help our food industry survive and grow.         

  

 
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The Association of Welsh Independent Brewers

08 Oct

The Association of Welsh Independent Brewers, (AWIB) response to the, Welsh Assembly Government, WAG’s response to the Rural Affair’s Sub-Committee’s report on the brewing industry. The Rural Affairs Sub-Committee suggest that The Welsh Government should improve its own expertise and capacity to support the Welsh wine, beer, cider and sprit industries by appointing an official within its Food and Market Development Division with dedicated responsibility for developing and promoting the sectors in Wales.

WAG Response, Reject in part saying:

 A finite amount of resources are allocated to the market development of the food sector in Wales. The Assembly Government’s Food, Fisheries & Market Development Division’s (FFMDD) remit is to support the development and growth of food production, and food and drink processing industries in Wales. To make certain that this is achieved a broader approach has been taken to ensure that the division’s activity is all encompassing.

The Assembly Government is not in a position to take this recommendation forward due to limited resources, and the Assembly Government must prioritise its interventions. Despite this the Welsh Assembly Government at present supports four dedicated festivals for the drinks sector. Total support for these 4 festivals total £63,000 funded by the Food Festival Grant Funding Programme, part of the Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme, funded by the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013 which is financed by the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Union.

 FFMDD also takes a lead role in coordinating ‘Welsh Wine Week’ which aims to spark interest in Wales’ wine producers and vineyards where producers across the country offer tastings, tours, and special promotions in order to show the quality of Welsh wine.

Producers also have an opportunity to enter into the annual True Taste Awards, managed by the Welsh Assembly Government with a category devoted to alcoholic drinks. To date 12 producers in the sector have benefited from the PR support under the True Taste banner as well as the opportunity to participate in a calendar of consumer and trade events.

Kath’s comment: The Food Festival budget continues to be squeezed. Although for the last two years I have not received the financial allocation per festival, I am aware of one 2-day food festival which received this year about £4k. So to learn that 4 festivals dedicated for the drinks sector get £63,000k between them really does make me annoyed. The four festivals are: Monmouthshire Pear & Perry Festival, Welsh Perry & Cider Festival, Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival and the West Wales Beer, Cider Perry Festival. I wonder how this money, which averages around £16k each, is spent. I wonder how long these 4 dedicated festivals for the drinks sector have been getting this amount of money and can this amount really be justified?

 
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Prizes On Offer For Supermarket Lovers Of Welsh Lamb & Welsh Beef

05 Oct

I have just received a press release in from Hybu Cig Cymru, (HCC) the red meat promotion agency offering a prize pot with one lucky person winning the first prize of £4,000 in cash and four runners-up receiving £250 each. “Shoppers already appreciate the outstanding quality and value of Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef,” said HCC Market Development Executive Amy Lowe. “We see this prize as being a way of expressing our appreciation to our loyal customers, giving them the chance to win thousands of pounds in the run-up to Christmas. It’s our way of saying ‘Thank You’.”

Initially I thought this was a good idea, especially if they get the support of the media to get this message out. But then I read that customers have to save barcodes from their Welsh lamb or Welsh beef products bought at selected stores – those being: Tesco, The Co-operative, Asda and Welsh Lamb packs sold by Sainsbury and Waitrose.

The big four supermarkets in particular have been successful in decimating many town and village centres here in Wales. Independent stores are getting as rare as hens teeth as the powerful supermarket machine shows no sign of stopping or even slowing down – and this means butchers too. So why has this prize not been offered to the few independent butchers we still have left? Does HCC no longer care about this sector of the meat market?  Or have I mis-judged them and there’s an even better promotion being offered to our butchers………….

 
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