Archive for October, 2013

Food & Drink Strategy – What’s Happening?

31 Oct

I posted on 25th September about the Minister Alun Davies’ statement on Food & Drink strategy and we did send the statement to all our Best Of Welsh and Border producers to make sure they are aware of what is happening.

Apparently the Minister sees an urgent need to establish a Welsh Food and Drink Forum or Federation of people drawn from across the industry to provide strong leadership, vision and much closer working between government and business.

How and when this will happen, I’m really not sure.

He then states that wag tested the ‘Food and Drink Wales’ identity this year with a clear Welsh identity which has been well received by the trade. The consultation will be asking for views on further development of the new identity as well as how to strengthen and sustain it.

I have no idea whatsoever which producers the Minister means by ‘the trade’ whether he means it is the usual sector of the trade that has open and easy access to the decision makers in wag food, or if for once the micro and smaller producers were included to put forward their views.

The strategy will set the vision for both government and industry ensuring that both are accountable for delivering results. I will be setting out the proposed targets and milestones in the consultation and will welcome widespread debate. I want the food industry, stakeholders and Government to work together to achieve results and I am confident that together we can set our sights high and reach beyond our expectations.  

A question was also asked in the Senedd about True Taste which to date has cost £4.2 million and which was abolished without consultation, sadly this wasn’t really clarified.

Overall, fine words but I’m sure I will not be alone in knowing I’ve heard similar ones before. I recall when wag ‘kindly’ asked us for our views for a Food Plan set up in 2010. I remember sitting for hours in a hotel in Pembrokeshire and the then Head of Food asking for our views after telling us wag were putting forward a 10 year plan for food. Many of us argued strongly that it was impossible in the current climate to create a plan for five years, let alone ten. But despite the ‘your views are important to us spiel’ we got a 10 year plan which surprisingly didn’t last the ten years!! Now we are on the roundabout once again, well in theory anyhow! So what do we do? Well that’s not an easy question to answer. I am well aware that some of you are so disheartened with wag food that you will do absolutely nothing, and of course that’s your choice. But if that’s your decision please don’t moan at me about wag food in the future. It is rare that wag food asks for your views and I’d be the last to stick up for them because you certainly haven’t any guarantee at all that they will listen and I do accept that. I also accept that producers, especially the smaller ones get the chance to pass their views to wag food, although I’d be the first to admit I’m never sure if producers are then ignored or if this is what you’d call paying lip service! But, I refuse to give up and say again, if you don’t try, don’t moan at me. Welsh producers and Welsh food are what we are all about, so let’s keep going……………….

I’ve asked wag’s press office what consultation process is going to happen and have been told that meetings are going to be arranged in the future. However one is being held with the new Head Of Food, Keith Smyton, again in Pembrokeshire, but that is just for Pembrokeshire producers. But this very morning Ian has just taken a call from one of our Best of Welsh & Borders producers, one who is based in Pembrokeshire and he knows nothing about it!!!! Ian gave him the details of the person he should speak to about being ignored, and I hope that is the only one they’ve missed out. This BOW producer had picked up about his meeting because we’d sent it around them all a soon as we’d got it. We’d received the meeting news, not from Pembrokeshire food department, but from a BOW producer who wanting to keep us in the loop, however the date and day of the meeting was incorrect. But thanks to those Pembrokeshire producers that kept me updated, much appreciated as always.

Early this week I asked Pembrokeshire Food dept. for press tickets to attend, but been told that it is for Pembrokeshire food producers only and that press and public are not allowed to attend. I don’t really know any Pembrokeshire public that would be interested sufficiently in food to want to give up an evening to attend, but to ban press is puzzling to say the least and in my view not at all helpful. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said this industry should work together more, but a reality check for me is required this is  not the industry, this is Pembrokeshire one of only two Welsh counties that actually have a food officer.


Awareness Or Sales – Which Would You Prefer?

30 Oct

This saga continues as I ask the obvious question, awareness or sales, which would you prefer? Well you’d have to be an idiot not to want sales, but then no doubt you are working for yourself and if you don’t sell you don’t eat, can’t pay the mortgage etc. I posted again on 28/10 after one of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers sent through interesting questions relating to a post on 24/10 on Welsh Lamb – How much Is Produced & How Much Is Exported. Although this Best of Welsh & Borders producer was not in the meat sector he raised valid questions and points about the meat market and the difference between awareness and market penetration.  

Yesterday however I could have exploded, after receiving another press release from HCC about their efforts which they say has resulted in 94% of consumers in Wales and 80% in the south east of England who thinks of Welsh Lamb as a premium quality product. 90% of consumers in Wales think of Welsh Beef as a quality product. Well it’s fine for HCC to blow their own trumpet but the Freedom Of Information request I put forward gave me worrying figures. In case you missed that one, here it is again:

1 – What was the total production of lamb in Wales in 2012?

In 2012, 61,500 tonnes of sheepmeat was produced at Welsh abattoirs.

2 – What was the total importation of lamb in 2012?

In 2012, 86,100 tonnes of sheepmeat was imported into the UK.

3 – What was the total consumption of Welsh Lamb in Wales in 2012?

Total consumption of Welsh Lamb in Wales in 2012 was approximately 3,200 tonnes.

It’s very creditable if consumers based in Wales and the UK ‘think’ Welsh lamb is a premium quality product, brilliant, but why isn’t there a follow-up question asking how much Welsh lamb they bought each week? Then why is the total consumption of Welsh lamb last year only 3,200 tonnes? Then 90% of Welsh consumers ‘think’ Welsh beef is a quality product, but how many buy Welsh beef?

Call me a cynical journalist by all means, but I cannot understand why the Welsh Government and Welsh Quangos do these stupid surveys apart from them having to tick Government or European boxes. I’m sure I’m not alone, but if I’m asked silly questions about Welsh food, then more often than not my answers are not, shall I say accurate!!!!!! It matters not one jot whether Welsh or UK consumers ‘think’ Welsh beef and lamb are quality products or not, what matters to our butchers and farmers is whether those consumers are buying our Welsh meat on a regular basis or buying New Zealand lamb instead.

Awareness or sales, is a simply question to answer if you’re a Welsh farmer or a Welsh butcher trying to earn a living, but it seems others for some reason think awareness is more important……………………..

It’s impossible for producers to forget the Awareness Campaign that Fork2Fork took on for the massive payment of £800K for 2 years and then a further 12month extension worth £100k. Although ‘we’ then paid a further £43k to have this campaign evaluated – seemingly it’s not possible to accurately evaluate awareness. But all that money thrown at awareness, to my mind could be better spent elsewhere where its value could be judged.





The Welsh Lamb Debate Continues

30 Oct

On 24th October I posted – Welsh Lamb How Much Is Produced & How much Is Exported? I’ve been surprised that this post has generated a fair amount of discussion and surprisingly from those producers outside the meat sector.

So I want to share with you some thoughts from one of our respected Best Of Welsh and Border producers, (BOW), who is also not involved in Welsh meat, but he did have some interesting points to air and share. So let’s say that Wales has a population of 3.1m people, which could easily be about 1m families.  In 2012, in a survey of Welsh foods, spontaneous awareness of Welsh Lamb was 40%, unprompted, which was greater than Welsh cheese/butter/milk/beef and vegetables. So that shows that the consumer knows about Welsh lamb. My post on the 24th stated that 3,200 tonnes of Welsh Lamb was consumed in Wales then that’s about near, or makes little difference, of 3kg per family, per year. This in anybody’s world is surely nothing less than staggering, just 3kg, per family, per year. So let’s break that down to one leg of lamb and a couple of dozen chops per family, per year. Not even a Sunday roast more than twice a year across the whole of Wales.

But having worked that out, what about our visitors? We can’t forget them as they must surely consume some of the 3200 tonnes I quoted initially.

Thinking this through even further, my BOW producer and I are coming up with a picture, although neither of us are marketing experts, but then we’re not stupid either. Isn’t this what analysts call a lack of consumer penetration? This means that although people ‘know’ about a food product and so they’re aware of it, but they’re not purchasing it. It could be as low as 10% of the population buy Welsh lamb regularly, which could mean a Sunday roast once a month for just 300,000 families in Wales. So the question which is raises its ugly head, is why isn’t more of the Welsh population buying and eating Welsh lamb? I wonder if HCC no the answer and/or what they are doing about it?

Maybe this is too simplistic. Perhaps this is the actual size of the market, but from where I am, not many people seem concerned and I would like to know why not?

Isn’t it up to the industry to look at the reasons why penetration is so low and do something about that? Awareness is fine, I know about Ferraris but I am never, ever, going to buy one. So what does awareness mean if someone then cannot convert that into sales?

We’d love to see some demographics on the market, that would be useful, as would a split between wholesale and retail would be interesting. Who buys what, where, when, how much, who is the consumer, are they young/old/retired/professionals/etc.? We’ve lots of questions but need answers……………………

Have HCC, MINTEL or other data on the red meat market on which they have based their strategy?

Have HCC done lots of work and decided that selling Welsh lamb in Wales just isn’t worth the effort once they’ve understood the potential market opportunity? Is that the case? Or is it down to the simple fact that more money can be made exporting Welsh lamb and so the home market has been kicked into touch and HCC will just pay lip service to us?

Can I just thank the BOW producer for taking the time to put thoughts and views in writing for me. It’s much appreciated, especially as this is not your sector, so although you’ve raised many interesting question, there is no self-interest here.






Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival

28 Oct

Cowbridge festival is not always blessed with the best of weather, but leading up to their weekend they were blighted with news on all media with forthcoming storms and possible hurricanes – not the news they needed at all. Sadly the forecasts were reasonably accurate and I’m sure it must have affected the visitor numbers, although I didn’t get an official count.

However regular readers will know that Cowbridge food festival is one of my favourites and I can assure you there are not many Welsh food festivals in that select group! So why is it a favourite? Well lots of reasons really and the starting point is Polly. If you haven’t met Polly, she is the Cowbridge Events Manager. She runs her own company, pollywilson events and I think she does a great job – so enough said. Polly’s been managing Cowbridge for what seems like forever and if only I could bottle her skills and positive attitude and send it around some other festivals that could do with a much-needed boost. But obviously Polly’s not running this festival solo; she has the backing, direction and support of John Davies, the Chair of Cowbridge Food Festival. John’s such a star. Over the years he’s assembled a brilliant team around him. Between them they give Cowbridge a festival they have every right to be proud of. I’ve never said that it’s an easy job to run a food festival, I’m certainly wouldn’t volunteer to run one, but I must say, with tongue-in-cheek, it tends to look easy when you visit a well run one!!! Or maybe the Cowbridge team have all been brilliantly trained as swans, gliding serenely along whilst paddling like mad underneath!!! But it’s the producers and the visitors that matter and no-one can take away that this festival has got a great deal right.

So how did our visit to the 10th Cowbridge Food & Drink award winning festival go? Well Ian and I always visit on the Sunday as Saturday is always busy, busy, plus I obviously get better feedback after a day’s trading. The opportunity to talk to producers that are, by and large smiling, although tired and sometimes rather damp, is really worthwhile. I did talk to a few producers who weren’t on a par with their last year’s figures, but on the whole, a reasonably positive picture in that weather and this climate.  Overall Wag’s funded festival programme has not been that good this year, with very few festivals managing to buck the ongoing economic recession, so to talk to some happy food producers did help to make my damp day. Another bonus at Cowbridge is that Polly accepts quite a few of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, but that just shows what a quality festival this is, selling the best of Welsh food!!!!!

What always impresses me at Cowbridge is how John, Polly and the team have continued each year to encourage the whole town to get involved, not only back the festival, but to push their own businesses too. I’m disappointed when other festivals can’t get their towns supporting their festivals because I do feel it is important. I’m certainly not saying it is easy, it’s something Polly and I have discussed on a regular basis and  it’s been hard work for the Cowbridge team, they have found it tough, but no-one can disagree that this makes the whole festival work much better and gives it a real buzzy, party atmosphere. Some of Cowbridge shops were even advertising festival specials. I did hear of a wag funded festival who wouldn’t allow one of the shops on his own High Street take a food stand, even though it meant his shop still stayed open! I wouldn’t have believed it if the shop owner hadn’t told me himself but you couldn’t make it up could you?

I’m sure I commented last year that Polly is one of the few organisers who does listen to the traders; she takes their comments on board and makes improvements, if at all possible. The traders respect Polly and that is fairly unusual. Yet despite Polly’s skills, even she can’t increase the festival site size! Over the years John and the team have tried their best to gain additional space where they can and re-jig the layout to utilize the space they have available, but it’s inevitable that some traders are turned away. Of course that’s annoying, but as traders talk amongst themselves of a ‘fabulous festival at Cowbridge’ then the more traders apply each year and the disappointment continues. I’m sure some of you are from time to time a bit sloppy filling in your application forms, but you cannot expect Polly or any other organiser for that matter, to remember the little quirks about your particular business. Put as much detail on your form as possible and stop expecting organisers to be mind readers, or the equivalent of Memory Women!

After all these years asking, I’m now not sure that wag food can devise one universal application form that all food festival organisers will accept, even if it’s only for a year. I used to be hopeful that could happen, but with the lack of interest from wag to date, maybe that’s something else I’ve got wrong! It would cut down on producers’ paperwork, as they would fill in one form each year and email it through as an attachment, with an opportunity to make changes during the year if necessary. Instead we have a time-consuming system which wastes our producers’ time and effort and doesn’t help organisers that much either.

It’s the dialogue that Polly has worked hard to establish not just with the traders but also from my side too. I get everything I need for Polly. I know what’s happening; I know who’s exhibiting, so there are no grumbles from me. The finishing touch was on Tuesday when I received in the post two wristbands – without having to ask!!!!!! Efficient, yes, helpful, yes, but more so I actually feel that this event wants to see Ian and I in Cowbridge – so how brilliant is that?

Cowbridge is a beautiful, town full of character, without a multi-storey car park and I say thank goodness for that. So it stands to reason that parking will always be an issue. It goes without saying that every trader wishes to park a maximum of 20 paces away from their stand, but that is just not how it works in the real world. The Cowbridge team has worked hard to try and grab any space they can get their hands on for their two day festival, but as the festival continues to grow in popularity, its bond to be a victim of its own success. A great solution has been using the young people from ATC Squadron 293; they always do a great job each year, helping traders move their stock to and from their vans, litter picking and sorting out any little hiccups that occur. These young people are always polite and a credit, not only to the ATC, but to their parents too. To help combat the parking issue Cowbridge runs an efficient Park & Ride, which is a huge help and the other bonus was clear signage on my way in. Another plus was all the Marshalls/Stewards I came into contact were polite and helpful; so it’s no wonder I find Cowbridge festival a pleasure to attend.

The cookery demos were moved much closer to the main action, which was sensible and worked well. There were locals chefs down for duty and again this is something I like and want to see more of at other festivals. Not sure though if the chefs were using food from the producers, but if not, maybe this can be sorted for next year. .

Cowbridge had little option this year but to run without wag funding, not Cowbridge’s fault at all, it’s all down to lack of organisation, late confirmation of budgets, but whatever the reason it is simply not acceptable wag. Cowbridge were given at the best two and a half weeks notice not only to fill in oodles of wag paperwork, but were this year asked for CV’s for their team. No, you haven’t misread it, I did say CV’s. Now you are going to ask why CV’s are required and my answer is they are not. But it is apparently in case wag’s P.A.s are asked for them. What utter rubbish.wag food of course will then say this is public money and we have to be careful and responsible. Well that’s their theory which simply doesn’t stand up because wag food waste as much public money, in my view, as many other government departments. Someone at wag food needs a whacking dose of common sense before Welsh food festival organisers all decide on mass to resign. Again in my view, wag food doesn’t deserve to have such hard-working volunteers, because they are simply not appreciated. So a serious reality check is needed here wag. Firstly the bulk of your funded food festivals are run, by-and-large by volunteers, many retired or semi-retired. But CV’s has to go to the top of my very long list of wag’s stupid, pointless requests. No-one in wag food has thought this through from the organisers’ point of view, which continues to be one of the main problems of the wag food department.

So far this year, Ian and I have attended seventeen festivals and have failed to see a wag food person at any of them. But surely if official visitors wish to attend can’t wag pick up the phone and talk to the organiser directly? Because wag sent out their applications so late,  Cowbridge were out-of-pocket by £10k – which is a big hole to fill, and more so when it was not their fault. I wonder if wag raised any concern as to why Cowbridge hadn’t applied for funding this year. If  I’d have been wag, I certainly would, but then I am talking about civil servants that get paid each month, not the self-employed and certainly not volunteers. However I find it sad, because as wag, I’d want to take some of the credit for this fabulous festival. It showed off Welsh artisan food producers, the bulk of them Welsh food producers, to great advantage, it added a great deal to the town, with locals and visitors enjoying themselves.

Now there’s a funny twist to this thread, because ironically, for this festival who through no fault of their own were not funded this year, guess who visited on the Saturday? Minister of Natural Resources and that includes food, Alun Davies as well as Jane Hutt, Minister of Finance. They spent a good hour there and were given a tour around by John and hopefully in that time both Ministers could understand the problems that both their departments put on these volunteers who are supporting not only our food festivals but also their communities by attracting more people into their areas. Please don’t hold your breath on this one but let’s just hope seeds were sown and they grow. Now any festival would be reveling in two Ministers visiting in a day but that wasn’t enough for Cowbridge, oh no. On Sunday, someone else who was their in a private capacity with his family, was first Minister Carwen Jones. I didn’t realize Mr. Jones had such good taste, but as we all met up at the SamosaCo stand, in the food-to-go marquee, for their amazing chicken curry, I shall have to retract that, I cannot fault his taste on the curry front!!!

Next year Polly is going to have the same problem with even more producers desperate to get a pitch there. From her side, in some ways, it’s a lovely position so be in, providing she accepts that she can’t please all the producers, all of the time!! So if I can offer a snippet of advice to producers, fill the forms in fully, sell your company well, be adaptable about maybe not bringing your whole range, and then keep your fingers crossed. If you fail to get in maybe Polly can give you feedback ……

Congratulations Cowbridge to all involved for once again putting on a fabulous festival; your hard work has certainly paid off, despite the dreadful weather. Your success is totally deserved.


Welsh Lamb – How Much Is Produced & How Much Is Exported?

24 Oct

I had a question sent into me asking details of Welsh lamb production, how much is exported and how much is eaten in Wales. I followed this question through only because it came from one of our Best Of Welsh & Borders, (BOW), producers and it is a service we offer them if they don’t wish to have their name put forward. So I sent the questions through to the press office to be dealt with as a Freedom Of Information request. The press office then sent them through to Hybu Cig Cymru, (HCC), Meat Promotion Wales. Follows is HCC’s response:

1 – What was the total production of lamb in Wales in 2012?

In 2012, 61,500 tonnes of sheepmeat was produced at Welsh abattoirs.

2 – What was the total importation of lamb in 2012?

In 2012, 86,100 tonnes of sheepmeat was imported into the UK.

3 – What was the total consumption of Welsh Lamb in Wales in 2012?

Total consumption of Welsh Lamb in Wales in 2012 was approximately 3,200 tonnes.

4 – What was the average deadweight of lambs produced in Wales in 2012?

The average carcase weight for a lamb slaughtered in Wales was 18.6kg.

5 – What was the average deadweight of lambs imported to Wales in 2012?

The data for the average deadweight of lambs imported into the UK from overseas is not available.

I have now passed the response to our BOW producer and suffice to say his comment on these figures, is not ‘of the tone’ that I could quote to you!!!

The one conclusion that I’ve made and is patently clear, is that the figures are not clear. Now you have to understand dear readers, that figures have never been a strong point with me so do bear with me. I’ve browsed through ‘Food and Drink Wales (published July 2013)’ where it states states that 34,000 tonnes of Welsh lamb is consumed in the UK and that 69,000 tonnes of Welsh lamb goes overseas.

Then onto the ‘Decade of Success’ an HCC publication, again from 2013, where it says 35% of Welsh sheep meat is consumed outside Britain.

Now even with my poor mathematical ability, these two statements do not agree, despite the fact that they are supposedly coming from the same source, HCC, within weeks of each other. To add to my confusion, if further confusion was needed, when HCC talks about exports, they tend to talk about monetary amounts of export, rather than tonnages.

Ploughing on further and trying the ‘HCC Little Book of Meat Facts 2013,’ there it states that per capita consumption of sheep meat in kg/person/year is 4.4. So if I take a rough population of Wales at 3.0 million, we consume 13,200 tonnes of sheep meat. But yet again discrepancies emerge, comparing sheep meat with that of lamb, but I think I can safely say that there is much more lamb eaten than mutton. So in Wales we eat 13,200 tonnes, but only 3,200 tonne of that is Welsh meat. Which, in my view is hardly a figure to be proud of.

HCC has a tag of Meat Promotion Wales, but I do wonder what this sub title actually means and wonder too why Wales imports  so much lamb? Perhaps Meat Promotion Wales doesn’t mean promote Welsh lamb in Wales, for Welsh people to eat, but enables HCC to be able to blow their trumpet on how much Welsh lamb they can export.



Food Festival Funding 2014

22 Oct

One of my regular questions is when will a decision be made about food festival funding for 2014. The problem is trying to get an answer!!! Although I’m not going to stop asking this question, follows is yesterday’s response:

 A Welsh Government spokesperson said:

“We are not yet in a position to comment on food festival funding in 2014.”

I went back and asked when they’d ‘be in a position to comment’ to be told:

I don’t think that information is available yet.

Well bully for wag. Not only can’t they answer the question they cannot or will not even give me a timeline on it. So as I have little ‘proper paid-for work’ to do here, I guess my only option is that I’ll keep chasing them for a response. Meanwhile I can only say sorry for those organisers whose festivals are hopefully running early next year but I’ve done my best. My suggestion would be that those organisers email or phone your Assembly Members and put pressure on them to get this matter out in the open for once.

I am cross and utterly fed-up of going over the same issues with wag food year after year with few improvements being made. I fail to understand why wag cannot accept that the bulk of their work is meaningless, worthless and to top it all – it’s expensive. Is it too difficult for their civil servants, working in their glass offices, to put themselves in the position of a festival organiser, particularly a festival running in April, May or June next year? Why would an organiser gamble as to whether they will get funding or not from wag? Why would an organiser want the additional hassle of not knowing if, or when, wag might fund them and then under what criteria. Gosh, it’s stressful enough for organisers that are council employees and are paid for their efforts, but why would a volunteer choose to put themselves through that, with virtually no support from the wag food department? In my view wag, I don’t think you deserve such good organisers when you cannot treat them with the respect and courtesy they deserve.

I find this practice of chasing wag to find out about food festival funding totally pointless and such a waste of time.


You really could never run a business as wag food run their department.


If only wag food could learn just one lesson that communication is the key…………………………………..


The Winter Fair

21 Oct

As always the Winter Fair causes our office additional work as producers expect us to be able to answer their questions relating to this event. One producer, who is always on the ball, pointed out that he understood Fernleigh Design were certainly not the cheapest in supplying shell schemes and was this the reason the Food Hall stands prices are always so expensive? I’ve no idea whatsoever about the likely costings of shell schemes, so this could be totally untrue, but I was happy to follow through on his behalf. It is though confusing that we’ve heard from one source that wag are not running the Winter Fair Food Hall this year but from another source that they were. Thankfully it’s not just me that ends up confused and very dizzy from going around yet again in ever decreasing circles.

So this as far as I’ve got:

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:

“RWAS have managed this year’s contract with Fernleigh directly so it is not a Welsh Government contract.

“All Welsh Government contracts for exhibition and trade development support are  contracted through formal procurement frameworks which are advertised openly via Sell2Wales and the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) and  are renewed periodically. We will shortly advertise through these channels to renew the framework contracts for a new 3 year period.

“We are not yet in a position to comment on food festival funding in 2014.”

I thought that Fernleigh were under a 3 year contract with wag food to run the Winter Fair and the RWAS, but seemingly that cannot be the case as according to this statement RWAS have got this year’s contract, but it’s puzzling that I’ve been told wag food are running the Food Hall at the Winter Fair, how can that be? So I’m told shortly there will be a new tender up for grabs, but what does ‘shortly’ mean? Don’t bother giving me a clue.

As for wag food ‘not yet in a position to comment on food festival funding in 2014’ – when will they know? Well I’ll tell you what, I’ll go back yet again, because I have nothing more worthwhile to do today than chase wag, and I’ll ask for a timeline. Do you think wag will expect me to keep asking the same question………………………………


Channel Fisheries Nets Buyer

17 Oct

On Tuesday 15th October I asked the press office when this news/rumour came into our office ** Whilst I still wait for a response from the press office I am pleased to report the latest news on this story, which was received from Insider Media Ltd……………

Channel Fisheries has been sold just hours after plunging into administration. Devon-based Channel Fisheries’ core business, plus its Fish At 85 restaurant and wholesale sideline in Cardiff, have both found buyers.Simon Girling and Graham Randall of accountancy firm BDO were appointed joint administrators of Channel Fisheries Ltd on 3 October 2013. Later that day, they oversaw the sale of the company’s business and assets at Brixham in Devon, Paignton in Devon and London to Seafood Holdings, which is a subsidiary of food service giant Bidvest Fresh. Then they completed the sale of its restaurant and wholesale operation, centred on the Fish At 85 restaurant in Cardiff, to Mandaco 777.

In October 2012, Channel Fisheries received investment from the £40m Wales SME Investment Fund which is managed by Finance Wales. The company received a £750,000 equity and debt investment. Sixty members of staff are employed.

Channel Fisheries’ boats land bass, lemon sole, monkfish, brill and sole at Brixham and Bideford in Devon, and south Wales. The fleet also catches crabs, lobsters and scallops, which are taken to the company’s yard at Beesands in Devon. Meanwhile, cockles and mussels are brought to a yard at Burry Port in south Wales. Fish At 85 is located at 85 Pontcanna Street in Cardiff. The restaurant became Channel Fisheries’ first retail outlet when it opened to the public in June 2011.

The business supplies many of the UK’s most famous culinary names, including the triple Michelin star-winning Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa and Jamie’s Italians, Harrods and Rockfish Bristol. It was also granted a Royal Warrant as fresh fish supplier to the Queen in 2006.

** Although I sent my questions through to the Press Office asking for an urgent response if possible, all I received today was an acknowledgement from the Freedom Of Information team. The press office, in their wisdom, decided to treat my questions as an FI request. So now, unless a miracle happens I have to wait until the 12th November for an official response.

Not being one to give up easily I went back to the press office expressing my annoyance at this delay and was assured they’d chase it and get back to me, which they have today. MY questions and the government’s response is as follows:

1. Can we have an official response and full explanation as to the demise of Channel Fisheries please?

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are aware that Channel Fisheries has recently entered administration and are carefully monitoring the situation.”   

2. Do we assume that the Welsh Arm of Channel Fisheries is still in administration?
As above.

3. Can you confirm how much money wag put in to them?

SME funding is managed commercially by Finance Wales and, as such, you will have to contact Finance Wales directly.  

4. Plus, what is the position of the warehousing at Burryport?

The Burry Port processing hub belongs to the South and West Wales Fishing Communities Ltd and the information is available in the excel document at the following link:

5. Have then regional fisheries associations put in place other buying/ selling facilities?

The Welsh Government does not hold this information.

I’m sure you’ll agree with me dear reader that it was hardly worth my while chasing the press office again for this paltry response. Perhaps it all comes down to helping each other and working together, well unless you’re the Welsh Government …………………..







First Milk Closure Plan

17 Oct

David Jones, The Welsh secretary has said the potential closure of First Milk’s site near Wrexham is a ‘sobering reminder’ of the challenges facing the Welsh economy. Jones made his statement following the dairy company’s announcement that it is considering closing its Maelor cheese-packing facility by the end of May 2014.

The business, has up to 231 employees whose jobs are now at risk, promised to begin consultations with staff shortly. The proposed closure was triggered by the loss of a significant customer contract as posted yesterday.

It will be business as usual at the company’s creameries in Wales, England and Scotland, whilst a spokesman for First Milk said: “We very much regret the need to make the proposal to close our Maelor operation. We have a hard-working, loyal and committed workforce there and are aware of the impact that this news will have on them.

In response, Jones pledged the Wales Office would work closely with the Welsh Government to support workers, families and communities that may be affected.

He said: “This is a sobering reminder of the challenges the Welsh economy still faces. We need to ensure we maintain close relations with businesses on the ground in Wales, focus on retaining and creating jobs, and attracting new business opportunities across the country.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: The Welsh Government will be meeting urgently with First Milk to examine all possible options to try to safeguard the future of the packing facility and the jobs at Maelor.”



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Food News From Ireland

17 Oct

I’m sure it wont last – but I’m feeling rather popular at the moment. It’s now not only Scotland that’s ‘talking’ to me, Ireland is also ‘talking’ to me too!! Hope these two news pieces maybe of interest.

Measures which will benefit the Food Industry

 The new CGT relief for entrepreneurs will be of benefit to start-up food businesses. This measure will complement ‘Food Works’, the inter-agency   programme which was developed in line with Food Harvest 2020 specifically to tar-get and accelerate the development of a new generation of High Potential Start Up food companies. The extension of the 9% VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality sectors will greatly benefit rural tourism and food hospitality enterprises. Other announcements in the Budget which will benefit existing food companies and encourage food and on-farm diversification start-ups include: A start your own business employment activation measure;

Improvements in the R&D tax credit;

Other taxation reliefs are being maintained.

This relates to Agriculture Food and Marine Department

Public Sector Reform Programme

I am committed to a continuation of an active programme of reducing the cost of running my Department, which has fallen by some €88 million since 2008 (from €304m to €216m), a reduction of 29%. Enormous reform has taken place in recent years as the Department’s staffing level has fallen by some 1,600 since 2005 (from 4,800 to 3,200), a reduction of 33%. Since 2010 there has been a 22% reduction in the staff of the non-Commercial State Bodies, down to 1,463 from 1,865 at the beginning of 2010. Total Department spend on these agencies has fallen from €247 m in 2008 to an estimated €189 m this year, a reduction of 24%. The cost of running my Department and the State Bodies will be some €8.5 million less in 2014 and I intend to continue to drive a change management programme across the Department and its Agencies while ensuring the proper resourcing of front line services, particularly those directly responsible for food safety, animal welfare and programme delivery.



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