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Archive for June, 2012

Not Quite An update On Welsh Dairy Summit

26 Jun

Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Alun Davies, said:
“I am anxious to listen to as many different views as possible as we develop our policy and approach to providing support to
different sectors. The dairy summit was well attended, and I am grateful to everyone for both spending the time and offering their expertise.  I will now take forward the outcome and will make a statement to the Assembly.

“I invited people based on their experience and expertise.”

I asked for an update on last Friday’s Dairy Summit called by the Deputy Minister Alun Davies and there you have it, in total. I also asked once again, why I couldn’t have a list of people that had been invited and that has received a ‘sort of answer too’. Translated by me to mean  – mind your own business!!

So those of you that were not lucky enough to get and invite and were expecting more information as to what went one it seems you’re only option is to tune in to the Assembly, if you can be bothered………………………….

 
 

Foodie Trail In The Conwy Valley

26 Jun

Follows in full is a press release just received from Conwy County Borough Council:

 A taste of chocolate heaven awaits walkers who complete a food trail which showcases some of the finest food producers in the Conwy Valley. The Foodie Trail is the finale of Conwy Walking Week which is the third of four North Wales walking festivals taking place this year which are being supported by Tourism Partnership North Wales (TPNW). Organised by Conwy County Borough Council’s Community Development Officer, Haf Williams, the Foodie Trail, on Wednesday, July 11, will showcase the best of local produce from individually prepared ready meals to handmade chocolate.  

The five mile circular walk, which will take in Ysbyty Ifan and Pentrefoelas, also includes stunningly spectacular scenery.

Haf Williams says Conwy Walking Week is now in its ninth year and offers a warm welcome to local and visiting walkers. She said: “The County Borough of Conwy has a unique landscape of coast, valley, mountain and moor. Once again, this year we have a great variety of walks on offer during the week. However, for me a highlight of the week will be the Foodie Trek which gives us a chance to introduce people to the area while promoting the very best local food on offer. It’s about celebrating those that make their living from the land by adding real value to the traditional fare of the region. The walk takes in a five mile circular route and will stop off at five local producers including a cake maker, a free range egg producer, a ready meal producer and a dairy farm which sends its milk to Anglesey to be turned into mozzarella cheese. Also included will be a trip to Siop Pentre, the local store in Pentrefoelas which stocks all local produce, apart from the milk, so those taking part in the walk can purchase what they have seen and tried along the way.”

This year, the organisers of Conwy Walking Week have joined forces with three other festivals to promote their events thanks to financial support from Visit Wales and the European Regional Development Fund, and advice and guidance from Tourism Partnership North Wales (TPNW).  Conwy Walking Week from July 4-11 is the third in the calendar following on from the Prestatyn and Clwydian Range Walking Festival in May and the Anglesey Walking Festival which took place this month.
Carole Startin, Marketing and Events executive for TPNW, helped the four festival committees apply for grant funding to promote the events. She said: “Between the four festivals there is such a rich array of fantastic walking on offer and so it makes sense to bring them all together and make the most out of all they have to offer. The foodie trail is a terrific example of the imaginative and interesting walks which the organisers have come up with and I can’t think of a nicer way to stay refreshed during an energetic walk!”
One of the highlights of the trail is likely to be the final stop at The Riverside Chocolate House and Tea Rooms which is famous for its range of hot chocolate drinks.

Run by husband and wife team Janice and Clive Hague, the shop stocks a range of hand-made chocolates alongside its busy tea room.  In 2007 Clive and Janice took over the reins of the business, originally set up by top chocolatier Roy Starkey-Nesling in 2000, and have never looked back. Clive said: “We moved to Wales in 1989 and bought the business in 2007. We try and do things a little bit differently and I have to say we are becoming famous for our range of hot chocolate drinks which are all made using real chocolate. We make our own chocolate on site although we do buy in the couverture which is not tempered. We then put the raw product through a temper kettle to make milk, dark or white chocolate to our own recipe. That chocolate is then crafted on site into handmade bespoke truffles and individual chocolates or used to dip other products, such as Turkish delight and fudge. Since taking over the business Janice has perfected her craft at the Slattery Chocolate School and now makes all her own truffles and moulded chocolates.”

But it’s their hot chocolate drinks that really carry their customers to chocolate heaven according to Clive. He said: “We simply don’t use any powder in our hot drinks, everything is made from our own real chocolate. We have a selection of different spices and flavours, similar to the syrups you can have in latte coffee, with ginger being our most popular. Janice and I just love the area and what it has to offer. We are also delighted that Conwy Walking Week is taking place for the ninth time and is taking in Pentrefoelas which is definitely walking friendly. The Foodie Trail is a great idea and all those using and making local produce are helping to put Conwy on the map and we are certainly delighted to be part of it.”

It’s a change to have some positive news to report, it shakes off my current foodie doom and gloom. I must say I’m impressed with what Conwy are doing. This is such a great idea and if it puts local food more on the map, brings trade into the producers taking part, then it must be a winner for them and also the Conwy area. Let’s have more stories like this one.

IF YOU HAVE A COMMENT TO MAKE, PLEASE LEAVE IT – SAFE IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT ONLY I WILL KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!!!

 

 
 

Are The Wheels Falling Off The Pembrokeshire Produce Direct Wagon?

25 Jun

I’m  still being asked for the latest news on this heavily funded project and I’m  afraid all I have heard is rumour, tittle tattle with some interesting comments  in between. I am sure that an EGM was called and the news I’ve heard is not good  on the lines that most of their money has been taken up and spent and latest  rumour, not fact, is that £80k is all that is left in what was a big pot. I have  heard very disappointing tales from producers of very poor sales, poor, if any  marketing and a severe lack of direction from those in charge.

I’m sure accounts were presented at the meeting but I’m still waiting for a copy to be sent to me or even a copy of the minutes of the said EGM. I’m sure many producers think ‘so and so’ will send Kath the latest paperwork, but you’re all in bad books now because none of you have done so. I’m happy to receive 10 copies of the same thing rather than none at all. I’d rather work form facts guys……….

Over  the last few weeks some traders have said to me they’d like PPD to continue, including some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders,  but not in the wasteful, useless format that it’s currently running, and I do use that term loosely, in. I’m intrigued beyond belief to know where all their  funding has gone but whoever has ultimate responsibility for this project has a lot of questions to answer, starting off with why hasn’t it worked?

 
 

Welsh Food Summits – Why The Secret?

25 Jun

I was told yesterday on my grapevine, that Deputy Minister Alun Davies has instigated two food summits – one for Diary in Aberystwyth on June 22nd and Food Summit at National Botanical Gardens in two weeks time. I emailed the Press  Office and asked for clarification that this info, was correct and if so, for an  explanation as to why even a basic press release has not been sent out? I also  asked who has been invited to both these summits.

My problem, as always, is why is so much basic information like this is hidden from the press, especially those journalists with an interest in food? Communication should be  the key for the WG, but this just appears to be another of wag’s many secrets?

I was pleased to  get a prompt response from a Welsh Government spokesperson who stated: “The Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Alun Davies, will host a dairy summit in  Aberystwyth on Friday 22nd June to discuss current issues with the industry and explore collaborative working as a means of supporting the sector. The dairy summit was mentioned in the Chamber by the Deputy Minister on Tuesday 1 May, and a record of this can be found online. The summit to be held on July 12, will explore strengthening the food and drinks sector as a whole. Detailed arrangements are yet to be finalised. Again, industry representatives have been invited. The Deputy Minister feels he is able to organise and host events, talking to people  within the industry as he chooses. Press notices are released to inform media of  notable and interesting Government developments and events, and at the discretion of the Welsh Government.”

Far be it from me to shoot the messenger, but I did have further queries. ‘Industry  representatives’ to my mind means looking after, as always, the big boys. Where do micro & small producers fit in as they don’t have an industry representative?

Of course I’m aware that the Minister can organise and host as he wishes summits or conferences. That criteria also applies to the Welsh Government releasing whatever it wishes as regards notable and interesting developments and events. It’s just a pity, that so far, the WG haven’t deemed this an ‘interesting development’. Being food related, I would have hoped that ‘someone’ might have thought that I’d find this information useful, being that I class myself as a foodie journalist. Seemingly others in power do not! I’m just grateful that someone on my grapevine, kept me in their loop about these secret summits.

The Press Office informs me that I cannot have a list of the WG invitees unless they all give their permission for wag to release this information to me!!! So that’s a no then basically, isn’t it?

The Press Office has also promised me an update on today’s dairy summit and an update of the forthcoming food one.

My concern is that our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers especially, and other Welsh producers who have yet to join us, haven’t got an industry representative so how is their voice to be heard? Which brings me back again to our idea of a producer group because maybe then the Deputy Minister and the WG will have to recognise you all and listen to you.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ALL THIS?

You have nothing to fear by leaving your comments. I and many others too, enjoy reading them, even if you disagree with me – that’s still allowed! You can be certain your details will only be known to me and that’s where they’ll stay – you have my word. You don’t even have to put your name, a pen name or nickname will suffice, we do have a large number of traders signed in – but that’s fine, it’s the content that matters, what you’re happy with, what you are cross about, what in your view needs changing, etc.

 
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North Wales Food And Hospitality Industry Conference

25 Jun

Good to know that  Deeside are talking to me and sure this will be of interest to quite a few of  you. Their Press Release has already been sent to our Best Of Welsh &  Borders producers and is also shown in full below:

Food and Drink producers, restaurateurs and caterers from across the region are being invited to the North Wales Food and Hospitality Conference, which will be held  at Deeside College on 18th July 2012. The  conference, which is the first of its kind, will bring together organisations  from across the sector for networking opportunities, best practice sharing and  business and finance support workshops. Concentrating  on a theme of supporting and promoting localism, the event is expected to  attract over 150 day delegates, with over 40 local suppliers using the  conference to showcase their produce.

The free event which is being supported through European Social Fund project, Skills  for the Workforce will offer workshops on Marketing, Customer Service, Staff  Development and Selling to Large Organisations, as well as highlighting the  different grant and funding options available to small and medium sized Welsh  businesses. Deeside  College Work Based Learning Manager, Carolyn Preece, one of the event organisers  said: “We  are delighted that with our many partners, we are able to offer the first North  Wales Food and Hospitality Conference at Deeside College. This conference has been developed to support and promote localism with local producers, suppliers  and businesses working together to reduce food miles and promote local produce coupled with a unique visitor experience.”

The  event will be held at the Deeside College site in Connah’s Quay on  18th July starting at 9am, with workshops going on until
approximately 3.30pm. The event is free of charge, but places are limited and  therefore delegates are asked to register their place by phoning Carolyn Preece on 01244 831531, or emailing
acquiretraining@deeside.ac.uk.

 
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Food Festival At Milford Marina

25 Jun

As I’ve not been for quite a few years, I decided on Saturday to pay a visit to this food festival, which is the start of Pembrokeshire Fish Week. As I’d expect from such a huge operation run by Pembrokeshire County Council, PCC, there were plenty of signs, including AA signs on my drive into Milford Haven. There were also plenty of car parking signs too with the additional bonus of polite and helpful car park attendants. No hassle either getting into the event as PCC had efficiently sent me wristbands through. You are all aware that I’m not in agreement with entrance payments, even though it was only £2.00, two adults attending, that £4.00 would by a pot of jam or chutney, a waxed cheese and have change! I agree there was a mix of entertainment and a small cookery demo area, but I do wonder if an entrance fee kept some people away, I’m sure it must have, surely not the real foodies, and maybe they’d only have bought an ice-cream but Cowpots would have been delighted to see them.

So basically a good start, despite the blustery weather, and the rain stayed away for the main part of the afternoon, sunshine would have made a huge difference for everyone, traders and punters alike, but sadly that’s one area we can’t control. But there are other areas that can be controlled and here’s my take on it. I talked to lots of traders because we had many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there and a few producers that were new to us – so Ian and I had a very chatty and busy time. I had mixed views from traders on where they weresited some didn’t mind being sited by the stage area others minded a lot. I, as a punter, found it a little confusing. There were some young people playing on the stage when we arrived and they were very good indeed, and then on one side was a mixture of professional traders and some craft stalls with a mobile fast food van opposite and a seating area, which was great if the rain stayed away. I must say if I’d have been a trader trying to sell my hot food I would not have like a mobile van parked opposite me!!!! I understand the link with this mobile van is that the company is Saundersfoot based and run the St David’s festival there. But to me it takes away from the genuine small producers, I can of course see a need for these vans at bigger events but I’m not happy at seeing them at a food festival. There was a fantastic selection of hot food available.

I then moved on past a bouncy castle, a mix again of professional food producers and craft, past a kid’s activity area and a small cookery demo area, followed by many charity type stands, environment stands, council stands before another run of professional food traders and at the end a very good group doing sea shanty songs, who did a sterling job. Purely from my point of view, I’d have preferred that the food guys were all together, that there was a covered area where punters good sit, chat and eat and drink they’d bought from our producers, but maybe some traders might disagree. I struggled to find one of my favourites stands
SamosaCo. I was starving and searched and searched for them, knowing they were attending, and about to give up, I found them virtually at the end of the tradestands. Might it work better if all hot food stands were together with the seating area I’ve already mentioned? Just another of my many thoughts I thought I’d share. From the traders’ side, wouldn’t it be easier for PCC to issue a site plan so traders can book they area they want to be in? Maybe that happens in theory, but in practice it wasn’t as slick as it could be, rather messy, but there can be no doubt that there were some quality stands there.

The Milford festival received £31,671 funding from the food festival budget, which according to wag’s funding criteria would have gone to purely funding this one day event. That’s one whole lot of money for a single day and I’m not sure where the spend went, bearing in ind the traders paid around £60/£70 per stand and £20.00 for electric and of curse the punters paid to come in. Fish Week also received £25k from the Major Events Unit, sponsorship from Milford Haven Port Authority, Arts Council of Wales, plus about 16 other sponsorships.

I’d been told by a producer that there were English stands allowed in but I didn’t see that on the day. One query I did have was a trader carrying a Brazilian sauce, which in my view, had a bar code which wasn’t a UK one. The label stated, made in Truro, although it had some connection with Horeb Food Centre.

I was not impressed by the cookery demo area, basically because I had no idea who was actually cooking, I couldn’t see a blackboard or a notice board giving chef and times of demos and nothing saying what they were cooking either. Checking on a
flyer I found that Ludo, from Ceredigion was one chef and Anand George from Cardiff, I’ll say again, although you are doubtless bored to tears with my saying the same thing, but here it is, why not use local chefs? That shouldn’t be difficult with the talented chefs that abound in Pembrokeshire. But if that can’t be done, why don’t festivals adopt what Caerphilly did this year and get some of the professional producers to do cookery slots, or at least offer them the opportunity of doing talks for the punters? Festivals should be there for producers, but festival organisers need to give them some thought as to how they can help them stay trading!!!!

I found it difficult to do an accurate count of stands that were there, I think my count was 44 food and 42 craft, which might or might not be correct but seems to fall short of Wag’s demand that food should make up 80% of stands. There were endless charity stands and a massive stand for the local guides. I also puzzled about the value of Littlewood’s Clearance at a funded food festival. I found Puffin Produce listed on the Fish Week website, but couldn’t find them at the event until I realised they were trading under a different name, sampling potatoes and directing people to their supermarket stockists – great – I don’t think! It’s a well known fact that if money is spent locally it stays locally. I appreciate the power of the supermarkets and also that parts of Wag’s food
division actively promotes selling to supermarkets but it is not a distribution line that all can take and surely the place to do sample marketing is in the supermarket where the existing customer can then go and buy the product.

Pembrokeshire Produce Direct, PPD won my new award for the most boring stand, two guys and a small table with some literature on it. Those guys, in my view should have been much more proactive and one of them leaving the safety of their stand and start
talking to people. Yes talking to punter, asking them, where do you come from, have you heard about us and what we do, would you like to try our delivery service?? They hadn’t even brought a selection of food produce that they currently run, so there you are guys – ‘Kath’s Boring Stand Award’ is yours for your very poor effort on the day. Rumours still circulate about PPD and the lack of sales, well producers watching them in action – well not quite in action – two guys stood on a stand both with their hands in their pockets, was not only not a good look, but it achieved very little. But will those guys get paid at the end of the month? Of course they will until their funding totally runs out.

It was good to hear that some producers had done ok on the day and as I say some sunshine would have made a massive difference. None of the traders I spoke could show record sales by a long shot, and you had only had to look at the lack of food
bags being carried around to know that was true. But it was not all doom and gloom that I have been seeing at some festivals of late. My suggestion to this festival, as it is to many of them, is please don’t just rely on the feedback forms that traders are supposed to fill in before they leave, some will be honest with you, others wont if they wish to return. Take the time to talk to
the traders, when they are not busy, and there were plenty of times that they weren’t. Endeavour to find out the truth about your event, not forgetting why this event went ahead in the first place, it was for our producers.

I’d also like to remind you on a personal level that it makes no difference to me if this event was a success or not, but it does make a heck of a difference to the livelihoods and the future of our Best Of Welsh, BOW, producers. Our BOW producers support us with advertising and I will continue to talk to them, listen to them, agree with them sometimes, tell them off at others, but fight
their corner so that they get a better deal from festival organisers and from wag.

HAVE YOU ANY COMMENTS TO MAKE?

You have nothing to fear by leaving your comments. I and many others too, enjoy reading them, even if you disagree with me – that’s still allowed! You can be certain your details will only be known to me and that’s where they’ll stay – you have my word. You don’t even have to put your name, a pen name or nickname will suffice, we do have a large number of traders signed in – but that’s fine, it’s the content that matters, what you’re happy with, what you are cross about, what in your view needs changing, etc.

 
 

Wales’ True Taste Kitchen At The Urdd National Eisteddfod

21 Jun

I did get a few complaints about the lack of Welsh food producers at the Urdd recently which was not only surprising but very disappointing as the Urdd’s focus has to be Wales and the Welsh people. So I thought it worth the effort of sending through a Freedom Of Information question. I did just that, but once again my response came from the Press Office.  So the answers are from a Welsh Government spokesman as follows:

The True Taste Kitchen was at Urdd National Eisteddfod last week

1. Who was responsible for taking the trailer there?

Answer: Awarded Contractor

2. What cost was there to the Urdd for the use of the TT Kitchen?

Answer: None

3. Are all Eisteddfod’s charged for use of the TT Kichen?

Answer: No

4. If so what are the costs?

Answer: N/A

5. What is the total cost to FFMDD of sending, manning the True Taste Stand at the Urdd?

Answer: £5,980.90 (ex. VAT) for costs associated with delivery, citing, staffing, sampling, connection to services and accommodation.
In true journalistic style I have gone back with further questions because it puzzles me why the Urdd and Eisteddfod are able to have the use of the True Taste kitchen for free. Do true Welsh events have dispensation? Whilst food festivals, jazz festivals, the Ryder Cup, the opening of new Welsh Government offices and the Boat Show etc. all have to pay for the True Taste Kitchen. Wonder if you agree to some events being treated differently, let me know whilst I await my official answer.

HAVE YOU ANY COMMENTS TO MAKE?

You have nothing to fear by leaving your comments. I and many others too, enjoy reading them, even if you disagree with me – that’s still allowed! You can be certain your details will only be known to me and that’s where they’ll stay – you have my word. You don’t even have to put your name, a pen name or nickname will suffice, we do have a large number of traders signed in – but that’s fine, it’s the content that matters, what you’re happy with, what you are cross about, what in your view needs changing, etc.

 

 
 

Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival

21 Jun

The team at Cardiff have kindly taken the time to send through to me their festival application criteria which I hope you will find helpful. It is shown in full below.
Cardiff International Food And Drink Festival has always strived to present an eclectic mix of quality produce showcasing the best from Wales along side great food and drink from elsewhere. We have always been proud of our links to our twin cities of Nantes, Stuttgart and Horderland and welcomed their involvement in the event from it’s inception in 1999.

The event’s popularity has grown and grown and we now have some 800 producers on our database. Each January we mailout all producers with details of all food and drink events taking place that year. This currently comprises of The RHS Show in April, Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival in July and The Great British Cheese Festival in September. Each event has a deadline for return and applications are dated they come in. Applications returned after the deadlines are not considered
until all other applications have been assessed.

All of our events are regularly oversubscribed with certain areas such as the Food Piazza at the Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival oversubscribed by over 200%.  We ensure that Welsh producers make up the majority of exhibitors at all our events and for the Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival Welsh producers make up over 75% of exhibitors. We try to ensure that there are 10-15% of new exhibitors each year in the different areas of the site to keep them feeling fresh but this
can sometimes be achieved by exhibitors who have chosen to move from one part of the site from another. We have always welcomed applications from exhibitors from outside of Wales and believe that including producers from beyond Wales adds to the vibrancy of the event. We look to achieve a balance across product categories but like many festivals are inundated with applications for preserves and baked goods and so producers in these categories are more likely to be disappointed. In short, in selecting exhibitors for our events we focus on quality produce, aim to showcase new and innovative exhibitors and look to achieve the broadest range of produce for our visitors.

One final but very important criteria is that each exhibitor must be able to demonstrate that they are ‘Broadly Compliant’ with food hygiene legislation. In response to the Pennington Inquiry on the South Wales E.Coli outbreak in 2005, Cardiff Council has introduced a ‘Broadly Compliant’ policy across all of the authority’s business activities. This means that any third party providing goods for consumption by the public be they wedding caterers, suppliers to school or exhibitors at our events must achieve a rating of 3* or above under the scheme operated by the FSA. An additional food safety questionnaire is included with our application forms with the instruction that it is mandatory that this is filled in and returned. Our Environmental Health Officers have been working with counterparts across the UK on behalf on producers in counties who do not currently operate this system to establish compliance via alternative reports but some producers have been excluded from the selection process this year if they have not been able to produce satisfactory documentation.

We welcome the input of producers and try to accommodate requests regarding positions, neighbours, access etc wherever possible. When our internal funding was significantly reduced we consulted with them via event feedback forms as to whether we should increase stand fees significantly or introduce an entry price for the event. The response was overwhelmingly in favour of increased fees and so The Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival remains free of charge to the public thus increasing attendance and spend.

Follows are my views, a version of which has been sent back to Cardiff.

Knowing how organisers select stands should be helpful, even if I don’t always agree with the criteria.

Although I can appreciate how from Cardiff’s side supporting your twin cities of Nantes, Stuttgart and Horderland, but does it really do anything for Welsh producers, apart from preventing some of them getting a stand at Cardiff International? Do festivals in Nantes, Stuttgart and Horderland give preference for Cardiff based food producers? You’re turning away Welsh producers because you are over subscribed, but allowing in traders from these three areas……..

Just to give you some background. I’ve asked Abergavenny, Cowbridge and Cardiff, as you all have a fair chunk of WG festival funding, about their selection criteria. This is because our Best Of Welsh & Border producers in Welsh Country magazine, certainly let me know if they’ve been bumped out of an event and it is important producers recognize why organisers have made these selection decisions.
I’m sure you’ll understand, especially with these three popular events, that getting stands there is vital for our producers. It has a dramatic effect on their businesses if they get thrown out of three of the busiest and lucrative food events in Wales, even losing one stand is a financial nightmare for them. These are tough trading times for our producers, and it can be easy for some organisers to forget that traders don’t have the luxury of a guaranteed monthly salary going in the bank – festivals and markets are often their livelihood, which explains why I’m following this through for them.

I’m puzzled that quite a few events appear so concerned about having a ‘%’ of new stalls, ‘for variety’, when they are all oversubscribed. This  must mean that you are forced to ditch some Welsh traders that have been supporting you for years. Do visitors make a point of asking why their particular favourites are no longer there? I’m totally unconvinced that variety is an issue with visitors and I was certainly asked why certain stall weren’t at Abergavenny last year. It does though serve me right going around with a press badge on!!! I also disagree with English stands adding variety, are we really so low on producers that our Welsh producers are not varied enough? It will not pacify Welsh producers that have been thrown out and English stands allowed in, when this is funded by the Welsh Government.

This is from feedback I’m getting from our BOW producers and we do have over 100 of them with us in Welsh Country magazine. Of course I’m loyal and supportive of them, because I want them to stay trading and our food industry to grow.

Final thought, is the same application form used for RHS Show, Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival, and The Great British Cheese Festival? If not is there any chance this can be changed? My thinking on this is it means traders can just fill in the form once, copy or scan it and save themselves some time. Ideally I’d like all festivals to use the same basic form so that this can make life a touch easier for traders, but that might not be easy to achieve!!

I appreciate organisers have a tough job, but so do producers. Obviously you can’t please everybody, and I do understand that, but I’m horrified to be told by ‘professional’ Welsh producers that they have been rejected this year after supporting our top events for years.

On 21/6 I got a speedy response back saying basically that they doubt you and I will ever reach a point of agreement, but Im thanked for my comments!!!! Well so much for ‘welcoming the input of traders’ it appears that this is only words from Cardiff. Cardiff are have their criteria right, in their view anyway, and traders can only hope they’ll still get in.

I’m so sorry for those of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers who have either been thrown out or have had to move from their regular favourite spot to get a stand. I know that few of you have the confidence to argue your case for fear of repurcussions in the future. Without a doubt I have wasted my time once again and achieved no changes for you.  My feedback from you is that you think that getting a stand at festivals is akin to winning the lottery and I cannot disagree. But the frustrations still remain.

.

 
 

Welsh Food Centres

20 Jun

I’ve heard mixed reports from many food producers on how useful, helpful and productive our food
centres are, in particular the one just down the road from me – Horeb. I was asked how much funding went into Food Centres and as this was another one I couldn’t answer, I sent off another Freedom Of Information question was off. However for some reason this question was then sent to the Press Office, so follows are the questions I asked and the responses.

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act

Could you please supply me with the following information:

  1. How is Horeb Food Centre funded?

Food Centre Wales, based in Horeb, is part funded by Welsh Government. We are able to provide information of Welsh Government funding but any other support is a matter for the individual centre to provide. The Welsh Government funding provided to the centre is for the purpose of undertaking knowledge transfer services to the food industry in Wales. This includes, but is not limited to, advice on new product development, accreditation, packaging and shelf life, food safety, and quality management.

  1. How much have these funding bodies put into Horeb Food Centre during 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12?

 As per the previous question, we are only able to provide information on Welsh Government funding. Any other funding provided to Food Centre Wales is up to the centre to disclose. In terms of Welsh Government funding, Food
Centre Wales, Horeb, is one of three food centres in Wales to receive funding. Each centre has received funding of £140,000 per centre, per year, during the period you have requested.

I understand Horeb also gets funding from Ceredigion County Council and assume the other centres are also supported by their local councils too. Hope this is useful information. 

COMMENTS

Test assured, you have nothing to fear by leaving your comments. I and many others too, enjoy reading your comments and sharing your thoughts, even if you disagree with me – that’s still allowed! You can be certain your details will only be known to me and that’s where they’ll stay – you have my word. You don’t even have to put your name, a pen name or nickname will suffice, we do have alarge number of traders singed in – but that’s fine, it’s the content that matters, what you’re happy with, what you are cross about, what in your view needs changing, etc.

 
 

Any Hope For Transparency In Welsh Government Food?

19 Jun

Relatedpost 15/6: Wag Food – More like a Game of Smoke & Mirrors

Is there any hope that wag’s food department will operate in a transparent manner? Regular readers will know of the effort I’ve put in to get answers from wag food on many issues raised with us by producers over the years. At one stage the Press Office refused to answer my questions, leaving the Freedom Of Information Act as my only recourse, but then with varying degrees of success. There’s now been a change of heart by the Press Office and they are now, in theory, willing to answer my questions, but annoyingly not all of them! Guess I’m just not asking the ‘right’ questions! My latest questions related to the food festival organiser’s conference held last November for which wag paid Miller Research £8,712.00 to organise. I only wanted to know which 40 producers wag invited, how many producers actually attended, how wag decided which producers to ask and what the outcome of the conference was. But I’m told that wag have no further comment to add to their statement, shown again below:

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:
“The Welsh Government organised this conference to enable us to understand some of the issues facing producers and food festival organisers and help us to jointly review – and agree – future funding criteria. Representatives from both funded and non funded festivals attended, and around 40 producers were invited. Miller Research secured the tender to lead on the event. Given that this is the first time we have held such a conference, it is wrong to suggest that the Welsh Government has “always run it.” Clearly, it is important that we listen and talk to the people involved in this important part of our economy. Comments made by the attendees were reflected in the changes to the funding criteria for 2012/13 and helped to improve our understanding of some of the issues faced by the food sector.”

I blogged this conference issue on 14th November and not surprisingly I did get some varying feedback from producers who did get invited, starting with those cross that they didn’t get an opportunity to speak. Because my feedback was varied I wanted the official view but to no avail. So although I must thank wag for at last putting into action what I have been telling them for years – wag must communicate with producers,and it must be a 2-way communication – this didn’t seem to be work at this conference. I’d like to take wag’s word that the comments made on the day reflected the changes to the funding criteria for 2012/13, but I’m a journalist and if they refuse to supply me that information, even if it’s not for publication, I’m not sure I can.

Wag’s criteria this year state that small festivals have to have at least 25 stands, with 80% to be food. So in effect, festival organisers will be forced to accept any stand that applies, even if it means they have 4 beer producers, 6 cheese makers or 6 preserve producers to ensure they meet wag’s target. But if that ticks one of wag’s boxes and the festival gets their funding, well that’s ok. Well ok, unless you are one of those producers that have so much competition in the food tent, with so few punters to sell to, that the event is not profitable and then as so often happens, it’s far from ok. I cannot believe for a moment that this point
was raised and agreed at that conference without even one trader pointing out the fact that too many producers selling the same product, cannot ensure they all have a profitable day!

I do wonder why wag fund food festivals, if it’s not first and foremost for the producers. It simply has to be, which is why I will not be convinced that this conference was worthwhile if I cannot get the information I ask for. Goodness knows what the big secret is about it. But in case any of you are not aware, in past years the festival organisers have been invited to wag conferences to tell them budgets have been cut again and what boxes they will be obliged to tick. It’s quite easy for you to check what I’m saying – just ask a food festival organiser. My only reason to tackle these many and varied food issues is because they have been brought to my attention by either some of our Best of Welsh & Border producers or producers that I have been talking to. My loyalty is to our Best Of Welsh & Border producers, to the chefs and the restaurants, eateries and hotels etc. that are also working with us. My objective as should be wag’s is to give these guys all the help they can, especially in these tough trading times.

I’ve no idea what game wag food are playing, but it’s not constructive, certainly not helpful, unquestionably not transparent, nor in the best interests of our producers. Which is wag food’s reason for being, surely……………….

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