Archive for December, 2012

More Smoke & Mirrors From HCC

21 Dec

At fourish today I got my reply, but sadly it is of no help.

HCC is dedicated to supporting Welsh butchers who serve PGI Welsh Lamb, PGI Welsh Beef and pork from Wales. We work from our own database which lists butchers who have been verified as selling Welsh red meat. Due to the provisions of the Data Protection Act, however, we are unable to release the details of individuals on the list to third parties. HCC constantly seeks to improve the service we provide to independent butchers, and as an example I refer you to our press release ‘New exclusive club for butchers launched by HCC’, which was sent to you on August 30th 2012.

I trust that Welsh Country Magazine would welcome the support we provide to promote quality Welsh produce.

My response is that EHO will supply me with details of butchers, but HCC can’t, now why is that?

HCC is only supporting those butchers on their database but we are not allowed to know who they are  – it must be a secret!

As for their exclusive club it can only apply and hopefully help those butchers already of HCC’s database.

I haven’t got a clue what is meant by WCM  welcoming the support HCC supply to promote quality Welsh produce – the time I have spent of this and getting nowhewre is hardly welcomed. I’m sure that HCC are delighted with the support WCM give our Best Of  Welsh & Borders producers, many of which are butchers and at least we know who and where our butchers are and can help them promote their businesses.

I’m not accepting being fobbed off by HCC and will take this further.

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HCC Wants The Industry To Work Together In 2013

21 Dec

Following the number of posts on HCC I felt you’d like me to share with you the latest press releases from them. Here it is:

Industry must work together in 2013

The Welsh red meat industry is being urged to work together in 2013 to overcome the challenges it will face in the New Year. Chief Executive of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), Gwyn Howells, said in his New Year message to the Welsh red meat industry that a coordinated approach between all sectors will be key to delivering a profitable future for all stakeholders.

“The reform to the EU Agricultural Policy and meeting the ever changing demands of the modern consumer are among the challenges faced by our industry in the coming year. But here in Wales we have dedicated farmers that strive to produce some of the best meat in the world and a state of the art processing sector that can more than overcome these challenges and continue to fulfil our important role of feeding the nation.”

Mr Howells said that 2012 has been a tough year with many the industry, with sheep farmers especially being hit by lower prices. “It has been a tempestuous year for the sheep sector. The awful weather, the less favourable exchange rates and the decrease in value of the fifth quarter have all had an impact on prices farmers have been receiving this year. But demand for Welsh Lamb remains strong and I believe there are many reasons to be optimistic going into the New Year.”

Mr Howells was also hopeful of good news from abroad that will bring an added bonus for the Welsh food sector in 2013.

“Negotiations to open up new markets in Russia and China are continuing and we hope to progress these discussions in the coming year. There is a growing demand for quality meat in Russia’s popular restaurants and steakhouses while China has a huge market for fifth quarter products and the increasing affluence also means a growing demand for high end cuts which we can fulfil. HCC will also continue to work with our existing customers in Europe and the Middle East to grow those markets.”

Mr Howells is optimistic for the New Year with new markets in Russia and China hopeful, well I positive that will reassure all our Welsh butchers – indeed that ones that HCC are aware of. I am sure that local people who still struggle to buy Welsh meat will be similarly reassured, guess they can always book a trip in the future to Russia or China though!

I am still waiting to be told by HCC how many butchers there are in Wales. I’ve reminded them twice over the last few weeks and have been told I will get a reply by the end of this week – well  not much time left for the end of this working week, but at 2.50 there’s still no reply for Kath…………………….


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Spot The Difference

19 Dec

I had an interesting chat today following my visit to the National Botanical Gardens last Sunday, which I thought I’d share with you. The chatty producer was very much on my wave length and did agree when I said that Welsh producers unfortunately have the Welsh Government food department they deserve. The majority of producers are not happy the way the food industry is looked after in Wales, how their dwindling funding is spent, but are either too frightened of rocking the government food boat or simply don’t believe they have the power to change any decisions made on their behalf.

Our conversation moved onto the massive difference between big business and local /micro businesses, although in my mind it’s fairly simple. Big businesses see numbers, local businesses see faces. Big businesses are, because of their size, generally run by accountants, local businesses are too familiar with their accountant asking them – ‘why are you still trying to keep going?’

What I’d like to achieve in Wales next year is to get the message through to live local, give local, shop local.

But how will I do that? That’s a good question but the only thing I’m certain of, is that whatever we achieve, we’ll achieve for the benefit of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers. Before you start thinking about sending your comments through, I can assure you that I’m not expecting my local council – Ceredigion, to support me, not after all these years and I don’t imagine wag will either, it will just be a bonus if they stop playing their games of smoke and mirrors. It’s producers we are here for and those are the people that matter.



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NBG Christmas Fair

17 Dec

I heard on Friday 14th December that there was a Christmas food fair at the National Botanical Gardens, NBG. So I went onto their website to see which producers were attending. There was, needless to say no producer list on their website so I emailed them asking for a list to be sent through to me. I still wait for a reply, but thankfully I didn’t hold my breath.

According to their website this was NBG’s popular Christmas Food Fair being held on December 15 & 16 as a celebration of local food and drink. This will certainly be the last time I will say this, this year, if only I could promise you it will be the last time I have to mention it again, but……… I doubt it. Why are food events run by the NBG not publicised better? Why are people expected to pay £8.50 to get into the gardens if they only wish to visit the food fair? In the great scheme of things who in their right mind would pay £8.50 to visit any food fair? I’m obviously not the only one in Christmas Scrooge mode judging by the lack of punters attending.

I did take the gamble and visit on the Sunday, but so wish I hadn’t bothered. In fairness as I drove there, the weather was horrendous, with driving rain that lasted for ages and certainly wouldn’t really encourage many to venture out. But I have a massive issue with any food organiser running with an entry charge. I got caught up in this very issue at Narbeth last year when two people were objecting to having to pay to go in with the lady saying she didn’t have to pay to go into Tesco and as she only wanted to buy food why should her and her husband have to pay for Narbeth. I though her question was fair question, but she didn’t get an acceptable answer and voted with her feet and went shopping elsewhere. Her decision didn’t make the slightest difference to the volunteers on the gate but it did make a difference to the traders. That couple might only have spent £10 – £20 but that was much needed income – lost. I related this tale yesterday to a trader and was amazed to be told, well let them go to Tesco!!! If only all of us involved in the Welsh food industry were on the same page. For a trader so say that even left me speechless, which is a rarity, I know.

Another trader told me that as its accountants running NBG, it’s them stating that their entrance charge is held for a food event. The traders charge of £30 for the weekend was reasonable, no problem from me there. But as I talked to more traders – and they all had plenty of time to talk to me – the consensus was that as they all had a busy week coming up, their time would have been used better back at home as they simply hadn’t enough people to even try and sell to and that doesn’t take into account the struggling economy and that people haven’t as much money to spend even on food.

Of course this isn’t a Wag funded event and NBG can and will make  whatever decisions they think best – I’d be surprised if anyone working there had ever worked as a food producer, or even run a tradestand for a living, because if they had they understand the basic that people are needed for the traders to sell to, the stands would be laid out in a sensible order so that customer traffic actually flows. However at the end of the day is really is down to the traders. All they need to do is ask all food organisers before they book a stand, what promotion and marketing they are doing for their event. Then if you are not convinced, don’t go.

I felt so sorry for those traders, plus we had a few of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there, who by and large had had a lousy weekend and no more so than those who had fresh product to sell. Thank goodness the traders that were at Caerphilly the week before had a very successful event. In fact I haven’t heard one bad word about that Christmas festival.

One parting word from one trader as I left yesterday really made me laugh, she politely ticked me off for not sending her the wag food festival list for 2013, yes 2013, goodness me, it must have taken me 4 months to get this year’s list. Never mind I did leave the Glass House with a smile on my face after all the grumbles I’d listened to…….


Latest Update From HCC – Hybu Cig Cymru

04 Dec

I have been told today by HCC, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, that there is no requirement for butchers to register with HCC. Actually I didn’t think there any requirement for butchers to register with HCC, what I thought I was doing was asking a simple question of how many independent retail butchers there are in Wales and for a full list of them. Apparently not so simple for HCC or wag to answer!

However I am also informed that HCC have their own database of butchers contrary to them saying they do not have any list, see below, which has been built up over the years. But surprise, surprise, I am not allowed to have a copy of that because it includes personal information and its release could breach people’s rights under the Data Protection Act. I don’t need or want anyone’s personal information, just a list of independent butchers and where they are based, but this is proving too difficult for the powers-that-be, if not downright impossible.

When I first asked this question on 12th October, Welsh Country magazine was told that HCC was building a website for registered butchers and that hopefully it would be live in ‘a month’. We were not told that HCC had a list of butchers and that due to Data Protection we could not have it. Indeed our response to FOI 6577, we were categorically told that HCC did not have this list. Our only conclusion from this is that their FOI reply was incorrect!

I’m rather puzzled that HCC state they cannot let me have a copy of their due to Data Protection, whereas Environmental Health Offices can and have, provided such information to us without any such restriction. So do some agencies hide behind Data Protection, or is it just HCC’s intention to make life as difficult as possible for Welsh Country magazine, whilst they play the government game of smoke and mirrors? Our Best Of Welsh & Border producers know how many times the smoke and mirror tactic has been used by those people in ‘food power’.

I have again asked HCC to clarify how they can state that they support local butchers and send them promotional material, if they don’t know who and where they are? Unless of course, what HCC actually means, is that they only support the butchers that are on their own database. I’ve asked this question before, but not yet had a reply………………….

I’ve also asked for the total number of butchers on HCC’s database. Bearing in mind that HCC might again consider this information confidential.

I have lost count of the number of emails I have sent on this subject to HCC and wag, but as people paid at the end of each month, they no doubt think I have nothing better to do and plenty of time to waste! So much for HCC being tagged Meat Promotion Wales, if only this scenario could make you smile, otherwise you and I might just cry…………………

First post on this topic was 13th November – Butchers, Who & Where Are You? Please Tell HCC Because They Don’t Know!!!!