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Archive for October, 2012

Deputy Minister Outlines Support For Dairy Industry

16 Oct

I have just received this press releasefrom the Deputy Minister’s office. I can only hope it might bring a little confidence for those of you involved in the Welsh dairy industry. I’ve spoken and heard from some of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and know the strain and pressure this particular issue has caused them and their families. Farming has never been an easy way to earn a living and although many farmers love what they do, they certainly don’t need to be taken advantage of over milk prices. Milk is a basic product but that does not mean to say that supermarkets can use it as a loss leader for them, whilst they pay the farmers next-to-nothing for their milk.

The Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Alun Davies, has re-iterated his support for the dairy industry and ensuring farmers receive a fair price for their milk.

But speaking at this year’s Welsh Dairy Show at the United Counties Showground in Carmarthen Mr Davies also said more needed to be done to secure the long-term future for the industry. “I recognise that the sector needs both to resolve the immediate issues around the price paid for milk, but at the same time also to put in place structures and mechanisms that will help underpin its long-term viability,” he said. I have argued for some time that a voluntary agreement is in the best interests of the industry as a whole and have vigorously supported the process that has led to this successful outcome. The industry code is a more flexible and preferable option than legislating to introduce the EU Dairy Package, however, officials are working in this area in preparation to press ahead if we should need to.”

The Deputy Minister added that more needs to be done to ensure the long-term viability of the industry and the Welsh Government was committed to continue to work with dairy farmers to achieve that. “The Welsh Government is taking a long term approach to ensure the Welsh dairy industry emerges from its current difficulties in a strong position for the future,” he explained. Later this year I will establish a Dairy Forum in Wales later to inform and support the Welsh Government in the future development of the dairy sector in Wales. A consultation on dairy contract procedures will begin soon in Wales, it is the intention that this will run in parallel with similar consultations in other parts of the UK. It will be accompanied by a UK-wide Impact Assessment. And I continue to press for the early introduction of a Groceries Code Adjudicator to ensure fairness in the operation of the Grocery Supply Chain Code of Practice.”

 
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Wales Food & Drink Exports Per Head Only A Tenth Of That Of Scotland, But Why?

09 Oct

Scottish food and drink could soon rival oil and gas as the nation’s greatest export, according to new targets set last month. With the industry booming, the aim is to grow the value of food and drink sent abroad to £7.1 billion in just five years. Oil and gas exports are currently worth £7.6 billion. The new targets, set by Scotland Food and Drink, were unveiled during Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight and at a time when the sector is booming with a growing appetite for Scottish produce overseas. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/09/food-drink12092012

Yes OK, you’re puzzled and thinking that I have lost the plot completely, talking about Scotland when my passion is 100% for Welsh food. The reason is quite simple it started me wondering if I’d been sent any export figures for Welsh food and drink. HCC are very good at giving figures out about Welsh meat exports, but I cannot recall the other sectors.

So my first port of call was Food for Wales, Food from Wales 2010 – 2020, a document looking to the future of Welsh Food. I was sure that this must have some figures from which to start, but skimming through both the consultation document and the report, I couldn’t find any easily, apart from meat once more. Eventually I find some figures from a Welsh Assembly document entitled ‘Food Security March 2011’ which gave me figures for 2009  – ‘Wales imported £342.1 million and exported £143.8 million of food and drink in 2009’.

HM Revenue and Customs, Regional Trade in Goods – Incorporating EU27, [Accessed 23 February 2011]

Now even with my hopelessness in maths, it would be unfair to compare these two figures, so I tried to level the lumpy playing field.

Scotland hopes to export £7.1 billion food and drink in 2015 and has a population of 5,254,800 as of August 2012.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/08/scotlands-population02082012

Back in 2009, Wales exported £144m worth of food and as of the 2011 census has a population of 3,060,000.

Yet these figures are still biased towards Scotland with its highly profitable Scotch whisky industry which in 2011 exported £4.2 billion. Gosh what an enviable export figure!

So taking out as many variables as possible, here’s my export summary for 2015 –

Scotland: £7.1bn less £4.2bn i.e. £551 per head of population.

Wales exports £46.99 per head of population.

What a difference between the two countries with Scotland certainly leading the way. So where is Wales going wrong? Does the fault lie with wag and the priorities it has set for food and drink? Wales has certainly received a great deal of European funding, which I’m sure also applies to Scotland. But is the explanation to this conundrum lie in Scotland using its European grants more wisely than Wales?

As always, I’m interested in your views  and really appreciate reading any comments. Please be assured that your identity is known only to me and even that is only through your email. You can select any name at all, it really doesn’t matter, but your comments are always of great interest.  With welshfoodbites rankings according to Alexa are @ 215,993 as of 08/10/12, you can be certain that plenty of people are reading your views!!!!

 
 

Brecon Beacons Food Festival

08 Oct

It’s been a few years since I visited this festival so I was curious as to what it was like now. It started off well as I’d had a press release and there were some signs leading into Brecon and park & ride service too.  Sadly I’d struggled and failed, to find on the internet a list of producers that were attending, which is very annoying when it was such a busy foodie weekend and I’d to decide where to go. I’d have thought this was a basic job that should be done, but apparently not!

Once parked up Ian and I headed for our favourite coffee shop in the town and were surprised to learn that the local shops hadn’t had flyers or posters and didn’t know the festival was happening. I’m sure in past years flyers and posters were taken around the town and it certainly made a difference in this coffee shop, because the owner would have brought more staff in and upped the  food order from her suppliers. Instead at mid afternoon the owner had no option but to turn people away that still wanted hot food. If Brecon comes under the banner of a local community festival, then flyers and posters should surely have been plastered all over the town.

I ddin’t see anyone from Miller Research, but Ian told me later that they were in attendance, but it’s quite amazing that I missed them yet again, especially considering how long I was in the Market Hall. Anyway I hope my post on Brecon helps them with their survey for wag.

After spending quite a few years covering food festivals, I’m still struggling with how funded food festivals are run. On Saturday there were three food festivals running: Newport, which was funded £8,105.97 for a two day festival, a reduction from the £15,171 it received last year, Neath which was awarded £9,999, the same as last year for its two day festival and Brecon which received £4,480 down from £6,300, for a one day festival. Aberystwyth farmers’ market was also running on the Saturday too! My first query is why these three festivals clash on dates? I’ve said many times before, I certainly haven’t a problem with two festivals running at opposite ends of the country, but three festivals and a farmers’ market was nothing short over-kill even for a dedicated foodie like me!! One producer I spoke too had three stands running out of the four mentioned, but this had really caused the company some headaches to service them and they simply hadn’t got the resources to cover all four. But if the food festival budget is primarily to assist food producers, then it surely can’t be impossible for wag to insist that festivals in the same area will not be funded if they clash on dates. Fingers crossed that in 2013 we’ll have a sensible, practical and workable food festival calendar. You couldn’t run a business in this manner and I believe the food department has a responsibility that funding is well spent and as taxpayers we get value for our money.

Sorry for digressing again, let’s get back to Brecon. The Market Hall, which is indoors for those of you that haven’t been there, is a very good venue for a food festival or a farmers’ market and it’s good to see this beautiful old building being used for its original purpose. Although there were a few producers complaining about where they were sited  – twas ever thus – I was pleased to see so many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there. Those that had a few minutes to chat, gave me the view that it had been a busy festival and they had taken some decent money. The Market Hall was full of activity when I got there and I was pleased to see people who were not, what I’d class as local to Brecon, which again proves my point that foodie people will make the effort and travel to well-run festival, even though fuel is still horrendously priced. Another bonus point was that there was no entrance charge, which surely helped draw people in. The organisers had arrnaged for the BBC’s Weatherman Derek Brockway, weathergirl Sue Charles and TV nature presenter Iolo Williams to attend and compete in celebrity cook offs.

Another annoyance and I hasten to add, not just from me, was that the very good male singer was simply too loud. The poor traders sited close to the stage had to shout to get themselves heard – which is hardly ideal when you are trying to sell to customers. The organisers had arranged plenty of musical entertainment during the day and it really was needed, as the Hall is a large, tall space and some atmosphere was very much needed, just adjust the volume. Check with the traders closest to the entertainment that the volume is pitched correctly because the festival is after all, firstly for them to sell…………………..

With so much going on that day, Brecon had done well to attract some excellent producers there. But I did find one ‘producer’ who was selling jam  and chutney that had no weights, or list of ingredients shown on the jars, or even a product name apart from writing in pen on the lid. I did not hear any comments about Trading Standards and /or environmental health having been around, but festival organisers do have a responsibility, as do wag, as they are funding, to help improve the quality of producers that are in attendance. Again one has to ask what Miller are doing on their rounds as this is not the first festival that this has happened. Some producers didn’t even have a banner on their stands and certainly no business cards or leaflets. There was of course some seating at the cookery demo area, but unfortunately there wasn’t sufficient space for chairs and tables for visitors to buy and eat at the festival, thankfully it didn’t stop some people from buying and eating on the run! The organisers had also done a good job in running a craft market in the street which did help create a buzzy atmosphere in that part of town.

So generally great feedback from Brecon.

 
 

Rural Development Plan For Wales

05 Oct

Another press release has arrived, this time from wag, which might be of interest to some of you so here it is:

The Deputy Minister for Agriculture has asked the people of rural Wales for their views on delivering the new Rural Development Plan.

The RDP represents an investment of £841m into rural Wales- the new programme will operate for seven years starting in 2014, and will support the environmental, social and economic wellbeing of rural areas.

Speaking at a Welsh Government conference in Newtown, Alun Davies, launched a conversation on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to life in rural Wales.

This will be the springboard for decisions about what elements to include in the next Rural Development Plan. It will also underpin the development of the new programme and the work of the recently formed RDP Advisory Group.

Deputy Minister, Alun Davies, said: “In developing our anticipated post-2013 programmes, we are facing a challenging economic picture, and it is vital we take this opportunity to do all we can to make best use of this resource. The formation of the new RDP presents us with a real opportunity to make a difference, and to deliver for rural Wales, and I am keen to be innovative and creative in exploring all possibilities and options, to build on the valuable work that is being delivered under the current plan. These are exciting, changing times in rural Wales and I am determined to stand up for rural areas to make sure they are getting the best deal possible. I am continuing to make my voice heard in Wales, the UK and indeed in Europe to deliver the best possible outcomes from the opportunities that arise with the new RDP.”

Group members are as follows:

Peter Davies- Wales Commissioner for Sustainable Futures

Haydyn Edwards- Chair of the Food and Farming Sector Panel

Sue Evans- Director of Policy Wales, Country Land and Business Association

Sion Aron Jones- Industry Development Manager, Hybu Cig Cymru

Kay Lewis- Rural Development Officer, YFC

Kevin Thomas- National Director for Wales, Lantra

Tom Jones OBE- Farmer/Vice President of WCVA

Neville Davies- Head of European Policy and External Funding at Carmarthenshire  County Council

Carolyn Lancaster- APL Services

So if the Deputy Minister is asking us, as the people of rural Wales, for our views on delivering the Rural Development Plan, then we must find a way to him – unless you think that the Group members listed above can really represent your views. I’m sure like me you want Wales to get true value-for-money and not for Wales to waste a single penny of the £841m that has been allocated, as Wales has managed to do so successfully in the past.

I’m always interested to get your views and takes on any posts I have put up, so please feel free to leave your comments. Rest assured  that all comments posted will remain confidential, you have my promise on that. You don’t even have to leave your name  – you can use a pen name with pleasure -although I do have a lots of traders and producers, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that our industry keeps talking.

 
 

Welsh Pig Numbers Down Due To Rising Costs

04 Oct

For the remaining Welsh pig farmers left, the following press release which I received today from Hybu Cig Cymru, HCC, will come as no surprise. 

The number of pigs in Wales has more than halved in a decade as the cost of production continues to soar, according to Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales.

Although latest deadweight pig prices for September show that prices achieved by producers hit 154.8p per kg – 9p higher than the same time last year – it is still below the cost of production which stands at 169p per kg.

 “One of the main reasons for this is the high price of feed, which is estimated to account for up to 60 per cent of the total figure,” said John Richards, HCC’s Industry Information Officer.

 At the same time, the size of the Welsh pig herd continues to decline. A four per cent drop in numbers to the year ending December 2011 saw the total number of pigs in Wales stand at 25,600.

 “This is less than half the number in 2000 when there were 65,200 pigs in Wales,” said Mr Richards.

 Supplies from the EU to Britain remained tight through August and September, leading to a rise in British pork prices against the normal seasonal trend. By the week ending September 29th, the price had hit 154.8p per kg, more than 9p per kg higher than a year earlier.

 “As in July, the average carcase weight increased marginally at a time of year when weights normally increase,” said Mr Richards. “At 77.9kg, the average carcase weight in August was fractionally higher than the July average, but 1.3kg lower than in August 2011. This is probably as a result of producers marketing their pigs earlier than usual as they struggle to break-even due to rising production costs.”

The number of pigs passing through Welsh abattoirs in August was 2,700, 14 per cent fewer than 12 months previously, and the third consecutive month when numbers declined. The total figure for the first eight months, at 23,100 head, is only one per cent lower than for the same period in 2011.

Many of us will certainly agree with the figures as the cost of feed continues to soar, but what does disappoint me is that this press release does not give any clue as to what the HCC plan to do about this shocking state of affairs for our remaining Welsh pig farmers…………………………..

Add to this the amazing fact that there are more pigs in China than in the next 43 pork producing nations. Is it not time that Wales had more pigs? I’m not suggesting the ‘factory farmed’ pork, nor the 18th century practice of nearly every farm having a pig or two. But recently the best piece of pork I have ever tasted was bought at from a Welsh producer at a Welsh food festival and it was from free range boar and boar crosses. Is it possible that Wales could work towards being the producer of high quality pork that actually tastes like pork?

 
 

Food Hall Tradestands At The Royal Welsh Winter Fair

03 Oct

A Best Of Welsh & Borders producer kindly sent me through the eight page application form for the Food Hall at RWAS which was of great interest.

Stand prices are:

3.0m x 2.0m single-fronted stand (open on front only) is £546 inc vat

3.0m x 2.0m corner stand (open on 2 sides) is £606.00 inc vat.

Above prices includes two electric sockets.

The cost for an A1 serve-over chiller 1.33m wide is charged out £470.00 

Producers are asked many questions including Section 4:

1. Are you a True Taste Award winner?

2. Is your product manufactured and processed in Wales?

3. Are you a small business i.e. less than ten employees?

4. Do you have a new product, brand or service? If yes you will be required to supply details of this?

5. Is your company exhibiting elsewhere on the show ground?

6. Do you have Food Standards Agency Food Hygiene rating of 3 or above? 

Selection criteria:

a)  True Taste winners.

b)  Companies where food / drink is produced, processed or manufactured in Wales.

c)  Companies whose raw materials are primary agricultural produce.

d)  Companies who are able to demonstrate support to the end beneficiary i.e. the producer / farmer.

e)  Companies which have a new product, brand or service.

f)  Companies that are not exhibiting anywhere else on the show ground.

Please note that these criteria will be rigidly applied when deciding on your company’s eligibility to exhibit in the Food Hall at the Winter Fair.

Applications close on 5th October, so I hope that if you can afford those charges that you have got your application in by now – if not hurry up!!!!

Section 4 and the Selection Criteria are more than interesting but why doesn’t wag insist that all organisers have to publish their selection criteria if they apply for wag funding?  Of course if that happened it wouldn’t necessarily stop the ‘face fitting’ which some organsiers do seem to apply but it will surely help those producers if they know they have to be a True Taste winner to apply, don’t you think? A wag person did say to me that wag couldn’t insist organisers did publish selection criteria, but as I have always understood that if you do the paying, then you do the saying, I cannot see why that cannot now happen!

This is one of the many things I thought would have been in place when festival funding first started, but who knows, maybe my constant nagging will make wag re-consider, especially if wag can remember that their job is supposed to entail looking after food producers………….

 
 

Royal Welsh Agricultural Show Seeks New Chief Executive

03 Oct

Now if any of you are looikng for a career change then maybe the following could be the job you’re looking for! For interest I have posted the full press release which I’ve received today from RWAS:

The Royal Welsh Agricultural society is seeking a new chief executive at a starting salary of £75,000 plus benefits to succeed David Walters who retires next May after 28 years in the post. The job, based at the Royal Welsh showground, Llanelwedd, Builth Wells, is being widely advertised as an exciting opportunity to head one of the most successful agricultural societiesin Europe.  Candidates are expected to be highly self-motivated, possess excellent management and communication skills, be able to work as part of a team, prioritise a heavy workload and be flexible and calm in all situations.

 Among other essential requirements the new chief executive will need to have an understanding and knowledge of Welsh agriculture and possess excellent presentational skills, both verbal and written, in English and Welsh.

Mr Walters announced in August his intention of leaving the post.  He joined the staff of the Royal Welsh in 1976, was promoted secretary in 1978 and became chief executive in 1984.

 
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Welsh Cheeses Toast the British Cheese Awards

03 Oct

The results of the 19th British Cheese Awards have recently been announced. The awards coincided with the Great British Cheese Festival and British Cheese Week when the great and the good of cheese making assembled to celebrate the Oscars of the dairy world.

Entries included over 750 vegetarian cheeses, over 200 raw milk cheeses, nearly 110 organic, 82 blue and just under 200 goat and ewe’s milk creations. The judges nosed, nibbled and narrowed the field to a list of winners in 22 categories, representing the nation’s finest possible cheeseboard.

The panel of cheese experts, food writers, chefs and gastronomes assembled to consider more than 900 magnificent entries from nearly 200 British and Irish cheese makers. The British Cheese Awards were established in 1994 to raise the profile of British cheese and create a recognised symbol of excellence for all British cheeses.

We include the list of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers who were successful, well done to you all!!

COUNTRY AWARDS

Best Welsh

Dougal Campbell Trophy – Perl Las Organic, Caws Cenarth, Carmarthenshire

The Medal Winners 2012

SEMI-SOFT

Rind Washed [up to 500gm]

Silver-Golden Cenarth,  Caws Cenarth, Carmarthenshire

CHEDDAR

Mild Block Mild Cheddar

Gold – Mild Block Cheddar,  South Caernarfon Creameries, Anglesey

Mature Block [7-12]

Silver Mature Cheddar, South Caernarfon Creameries, Anglesey

CAERPHILLY

Traditional

Bronze – Caws Cenarth Caerffili, Caws Cenarth, Carmarthenshire

Block Caerphilly

Gold – South Caernarfon Creameries, Anglesey

BLUE Modern Blues – over 8 weeks

Gold – Perl Las Organic, Caws Cenarth, Carmarthenshire

Goat / Ewe / Buffalo Carmarthenshire Blue

Bronze Goat – Carmarthenshire Cheese, Carmarthenshire

EXPORT

Hard – Cheddar Extra Mature

Silver – Pwll Mawr Mature Cheddar, Blaenafon Cheddar Company, Torfaen

Hard – Modern British Cow

Bronze – Black Dram, Blaenafon Cheddar Company, Torfaen

Flavour Added – Savoury

Silver O M G  – Blaenafon Cheddar Company Torfaen

BEST BRITISH CHEESEBOARD 2012

Best Welsh – The Wynnstay, Powys

 
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Pembroke Farmers Harvest Market 6th October

02 Oct

Pembroke Farmers Market is held in Pembroke Town Hall and is run by Pembroke 21C Community Association Ltd. This fortnightly FARMA certified market is run so that customers can buy produce direct from the local farmers, growers and businesses, again using locally grown or raised ingredients.

A rather good idea is that any local gardeners who have a surplus, just need to tell Pembroke 21C Community Association, then they can organise a community stall to sell your produce. So the next Pembroke market runs on Saturday 6th October from 9.30am to 1.30pm. For enquiries about stalls at the Farmers Market please email:  foundryhouse@pembroke21c.org or tel: 01646 680090