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Archive for December, 2011

Pembrokeshire Produce Direct – Accounts

21 Dec

I have received a copy of ‘Report and Unaudited Accounts for 30 November 2010 presented by the six directors. The company accountants were not instructed to carry out an audit or a review. The directors are satisfied that the company is entitled to exemption from the requirement to obtain an audit under section 477 of the Companies Act 2006.

Turnover/sales in 2010 was £173,712* as against £72,651 in 2009, cost of sales was £156,964 this year and £52,970 in 2009. This year their operating loss was £46,776 compared to £11,808 in 2009. The loss for 2010 was £44,296. I understand that the 2009 accounts are from trading starting in March.

In 2010, sales are listed as £163,980 with an addition of £9,732 for carriage outwards. As there was no carriage outwards shown in the 2009 figures, one can assume that this figure equates to  2,163 parcels at £4.50 each (the cost of carriage that PPD charges). This number of deliveries means over this 18 month period that the average number of deliveries per week was 27.

Also under Cost of Sales, carriage is listed once again as £14,838 for 2010 and £444.00 in 2009. Under Administration, postage is shown at £4,307 for 2010, which is an awful lot of letters sent, more than 11,000 first class letters sent at standard first class postage or over 11,000 magazine type mailings with Royal Mail discounts), but there is no postage shown in 2009. The accounts show a lot of blanks under 2009, bearing in mind the PPD project started in March, including packaging, wages and salaries, NI, staff training, rent, light & heat, stationery & printing, software and postage as a few examples.    

The accounts state that during the year the company suffered trading deficits that were partially supported by revenue grant aid. The directors have reviewed the forecast of trading deficits and believe that these will be supported by ongoing grant support which has been confirmed to them by Welsh Assembly Government. The directors believe that the company will continue to trade for the foreseeable future and that the going concern basis remains appropriate. The company received a grant advance of £93,906 from Welsh Assembly Government in 2009 to be repaid from all future grant aid dependant on continued trading performance.   

Administrative expenses shown for 2010

Employee costs:                £

Wages/salaries               70,435   

Employers NI                    6,647

Staff training & welfare       825

Travel & subsistence       2,208

Motor expenses                   399

Entertaining                      1,330

I’m still unsure of how many staff PPD is employing, or if staff numbers have been reduced since the project started, but £70k on salaries is extra-ordinarily high based against performance. Reading through these accounts again though, it appears that the salaries and NI shown, are from March 2009 as well as 2010.  

I am being told many tales about PPD, what I’m interested in knowing is which people put this initial project together and what they think of PPD performance so far…………………….

Thanks for those of you that have put up your comments on welshfoodbites, and the huge support we have had from our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers.  I’ve said before and shall repeat again, if you wish to put up your comments, no-one will know who you are, unless you wish to put your full name to your views.  The only person that will know is me, and I certainly will not reveal person’s identity. As always, you have my assurance on that.  

 

 
 

Aberystwyth Christmas Market

19 Dec

Saturday saw me in Aberystwyth, in North Parade, the normal farmer’s market site, to see how the festive market was running without support from Wag this year. Wag had decided that in previous years, this event had too many craft stalls. Not an opinion that I would agree with, I’ve never felt that Aber. Christmas market had lots of craft, but if it had, I believe this was a plus for a festive market. But Wag, in their wisdom made that decision, but still went ahead supporting many other events this year that are clearly craft top heavy.

I’m disappointed that the organisers didn’t raise an official objection about this funding withdrawal, but perhaps they decided an objection on this one might not help their further applications for their other food events. If that’s the case, which seems likely, it makes a mockery of Wag’s system, but then as it’s never appeared fair to me, is that going to change now? I’ll leave you guessing as to the person in Wag that Aberystwyth’s organisers should have complained too, if they wished to have taken that risk …………………

My view is that this has always been a good festive market, it’s much needed for the town, it’s very popular with the traders and deserved some funding, but there again, what do I know about what Wales needs as regards food?

This year there were about 30 food stands and the quality of stands was very good indeed. There were roughly about eight craft stands and I do think the craft stands certainly added to this Christmas market. What better opportunity to blend food and craft all made inWales? I’d loved to have seen more banners and posters around the town, but at least there were some! This year the organisers were lucky with the weather, it was chilly and windy, but with spells of sunshine breaking through. As always there were some mixed reports from stallholders about how trade was, but generally they were fairly positive and it was lovely to see Gill’s Plaice there and the chance for me to purchase some excellent fresh Welsh fish. Always a delight to see some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there to, they always tell me just how well, or not an event is going!!  

Some serious thought needs to be put in to see how trade in all Welsh markets can be improved. That needs to be done now whilst we still have markets and have traders willing to do them. Ihad hoped that with the fork2fork, 2 year, £800k project, markets would now be on a stronger footing, but it is certainly not what I m hearing.     

As I drove passed the market later in the morning, I spotted a large white van signed up as Pembrokeshire Produce Direct, (PPD). Perhaps I need glasses as I saw a PPD van at the festive market for Pembrokeshire Produce Direct, (PPD), but didn’t see their stand there. So why was one of PPD’s van parked up along with other trader’s vans?

I’m not sure how many vans, we, the taxpayers have funded to help PPD carry out their project, but are these vans available for all PPD members to use?   Or was this a one off?

 
 

Further Success For The Really Wild Christmas Market

12 Dec

Saturday saw me back into Pembrokeshire once again, this time driving over to St David’s to check out the Christmas Fair. A new event held at Oriel Y Parc, it was a wonderful success, very busy when I was there and my congratulations to all those invlved in the organisation, you should be pleased and proud of what they achieved.

The weather was on their side and that was a bonus for them, without a doubt after the last few harsh winters, and the venue worked well. It was a long time since I visited Oriel Y Parc and I pleased to report that with Paula Ellis now in charge there, she’s really got settled in and made lots of changes which all look very positive for the future. The food in the café was an obvious one and really was an improvement – the last time I went into the café, I left cross because there was a distinct lack of Welsh food. I think it’s Kate that now has the café franchise, so my suggestion is that when you are next in that area, do pay them a visit. We stayed for lunch and it was delicious – do try their homemade soup.

But now back to the market, which was held both outside in the forecourt and inside the gallery area. The exhibitors were offering good local produce from jams, chutneys cider, beer to delicious cheese and honey. I was also impressed with the quality of craft there and it was a really good opportunity to buy some beautiful and unusual gifts. There was a real festive spirit with reindeer, carriage rides into the city, Father Christmas and some appropriate festive performances from the St David’s Cathedral Boys Choir.

Well done guys, it was a great event managed brilliantly by Julia & Brian Powdrill and helpers along with the team of Oriel Y Parc. I hope you can find the time to make this a regular event.

 
 

Update Pembrokeshire Produce Direct

06 Dec

I’m sure our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers will be glad of this latest information that’s come through, from a good source, which I hope will help with your queries on this project.

PPD submitted an application for a project under the Supplies Chain Efficiencies Scheme of the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007 -2013, funded by the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development and for the Welsh Government.

Their objective is to develop a supply chain for primary Produce in Pembrokeshire, south Ceredigion and west Carmarthenshire.

The project started on 04/03/2009 and ends on 03/02/2014

It is to support a collective marketing initiative undertaken by 72 producers in Pembrokeshire, southern Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Swansea.

The total cost of the project is: £793,272 and PPD were awarded £469,530

I am also told that Pembrokeshire County Council has not put any financial funding support into PPD. Which does not agree with my being told that PPD did get an interest free loan as their grant had not arrived. PCC have supplied support as a coordinating and facilitating role as part of its business support for food producers in Economic Development. The idea of the project is to help local producers from Pembrokeshire and neighbouring counties to come together as a cooperative to assist in selling and distributing their produce to a wider customer base.   

 

 
 

PPD – And The Rumblings Continue

05 Dec

Headed to Pembrokeshire on Saturday to check out the St Nicholas Christmas Market in Saundersfoot as quite a few of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers were there and it was good to catch up with them. I was surprised that there was an entrance charge of £2.00 per adult which drew some unfavourable comments, with some people refusing to pay to go in just to shop. I can quite see their point and although there was some live music outside, there was only a cookery demo as an added extra, not sure if people thought this was worth £2.00 or maybe as locals people just enjoy seeing some activity in the harbour area. There was a sign saying that charging will ensure the market runs again next year, but it’s not easy to get that message through to the public. The feedback from producers was mixed, Friday had been very quiet, classed by some as a setting up day, but there were certainly some busy spells when I was there. There wasn’t much room between the rows of stands, esepcially with wheelcahirs and pushcahirs and people stopping to browse and buy. A larger marquee would have made it more comfortable and welcomng, but of course that just increases the cost for the event,even though it would have made life easier to for the traders to show off their wares and actually sell.     

Anyway, back once more to PPD as the unease amongst the producers is growing. I’m being told that PPD might try WG for funding, but I can’t see that happening, or they might return to their long-term financial supporters, Pembrokeshire County Council, (PCC). The more likely option must be for the bosses of PPD to go cap in hand once again to PCC as they’ll know that PCC wil not want this project to fail. PCC might then use the Rural Development Plan, (RDP) which is financed by the EU and the Welsh Government.  Pembrokeshire Produce Direct’  has already received funding through the Rural Development Plan.

Not sure if you are aware that PCC are using the RDP from 2007 – 2013 to part fund Fish Week.

A questionnaire has been sent out to all producers with PPD along with a letter on 28th November. I commented and posted on the letter on 1st December.  Questions range from the basic, which I thought they would already know, ‘how long have you been in business’ to ‘are you fully committed to PPD and do you wish to continue being a part of it?  One of my many worries about this project is that if the producers don’t commit on this questionnaire to being positive and pro PPD, if it doesn’t continue then the producers, not the management are likely to take the blame for the fall out – ‘they didn’t support us’ – it’s the producer’s fault

I’ve still not heard whether any PPDstaff have been made redundant or if the management have taken pay cuts but an unconfirmed  rumour I heard, said that extra staff were being taken on, whether these are company trouble shooters I have yet to establish and also importantly who is paying for them?          

 

 
 

Rumblings Continue About Pembrokeshire Produce Direct

01 Dec

The rumblings have continued over the last few weeks as more producers bend my ear about Pembrokeshire Produce Direct, (PPD). Apparently there was a further meeting/party on 18th November to discuss amongst other things how to make sure that PPD is still a business in years to come.

Of course I’ve got an interest in this, firstly becuase they’ve received huge funding, secondly because its food related and finally because I have some of our Best Of  Welsh & Borders producers signed up with them.

Producers have been sent a copy of the accounts and although I have yet to see them, I’m told they paint a gloomy picture. The European grant funding PPD received, which runs on a declining scale is due to end in the not too distant future.

I understand that PPD needs to be servicing 250 customers on a regular basis by March 2013 when at the moment, on average, they are currently servicing 50-60 customers. So after all this time and with huge funding, how is this increased customer miracle going to happen? I’m told that PPD have also taken on board producers from outside the county. When PPD were challenged with this they said that they didn’t have enough variety of producers in Pembrokeshire. Fair enough, but in that case why would anyone involved in the initial planning of this venture not know that fact before they went for funding? So why press forward with a name of Pembrokeshire Produce Direct when they know they cannot source entirely from Pembrokeshire? Whose decision was that?  

Now the latest plan from PPD is to ‘ask’ its producers to bring in at least 2 new regular customers by end of January. They also want some of them to sort out their pricing structure so that PPD customers are not penalised or overcharged by shopping with PPD. Again something I would have thought would have been sorted out years ago. PPD also want to offer more promotions on occasional highlighted products or special themed packs, and will also look at ideas from producers too. PPD also want the producers to remember, promote and also to push PPD, well that’s what they’d like the producers to do on top of running their own businesses.

So what are PPD doing over and above what they should be doing anyway? Well they’re funding a £5.00 voucher which will be given out with Xmas orders and is valid for on orders for 5th or 12th January. They are also talking about a free delivery fortnight again in January to target new customers and reward loyal ones. Well that seems to be it if I’m understanding all this latest news correctly, put more onto the producers. I’m not sure at this late stage in the business plan how this is actually going to generate much more trade for them. Its fine for PPD to shift work work/effort onto producers but unless I have got it completely wrong I cannot see PPD being the main core of any producer’s business and therefore it is never going to be a priority. As a complete outsider, I’d like to have seen PPD doing much, much more and as the business seems in such dire straights, have any staff been made redundant or any salaries reduced?  

As they reach the end of the line, PPD are not left with many options. I’ve been told a few times that PPD are considering going cap-in-hand to Wag or trying that same tack with Pembrokeshire Country Council. If either of those avenues is used there will be an enormous uproar if this business is supported once again from the public purse. This is yet another well-propped up business that is failing to deliver on all counts. How much of that is down to a poor intial business idea, or an ill-thought out plan, or staff unable to deliver what was needed, there’s much food for thought but time does seem to be running away from this project.

Love to hear your thoughts.