Winter Fair

03 Dec

Ian and I were both invited to the Winter Fair yesterday to hear the Minister of Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies launch the consultation document, Delivering Growth: An Action Plan for the Food and Drinks Industry 2014-2020. In my head I’d got this as a press conference but when I arrived, the great and the good were in attendance along with some press, it was just disappointing to see so many people who were not wearing name badges, including some wag people too. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, oh surely not, but I thought it was still good business practice to do so. I spoke to too many people yesterday that hadn’t even a business card………..!!

I’m grateful to two Assembly Members, Simon Thomas and William Powell who both took the trouble to also make sure I’d got a copy. Many thanks guys.

Here, in full is the Ministers’ statement:

Welsh Food And Drink Action Plan Launched

New plans that will deliver growth and jobs in the food and farming sector and increase the profile and reputation of Welsh food have been launched today by Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies.

The Minister was at the Winter Fair to launch an action plan aimed at delivering a 30% increase in turnover in the Welsh food and drinks sector by 2020.

Speaking about the plan, Alun Davies said:

“I want to set a clear direction and agree actions so that Government and industry can work together to deliver growth in the Welsh food and drinks sector.

“Food production is so important and has an impact on nearly every element of our lives. It affects our economy, our climate, our diet and health, our education and ability to learn, and there is no doubt that it is a major part of our culture and tourism offer.

“We have designed this plan to ensure that Wales’ food industry reaches its full potential. That is why it includes a particular focus on delivering green growth and creating jobs throughout the food chain.

“We already have a good story to tell on food and drink, with Wales having seen a 6% growth in food and drinks sales last year and a combined turnover for agriculture, fishing and food manufacture of over £5.2 billion, however we can and must do more.

“I want our final action plan to set out ambitious but achievable targets and allow us to easily measure our performance against them.” 

Delivering Growth: An action plan for the Food and Drinks Industry includes three central themes for developing growth in the food and drinks sector. These are:

·       Forming a Food and Drinks Federation to offer leadership to the sector (something like the Dairy Task Force or Retail Forum)

·       Developing a new identity for Welsh food and drink that will support trade and market development

·       Focusing on training and up-skilling throughout the food chain.

The Welsh Government is already working closely with the largest food and drinks businesses in Wales to better understand their plans and potential for growth. Under the action plan it will also work more closely with small and medium sized enterprises and microbusinesses to help them understand the business support available to them and encourage growth.

Under the plan the Welsh Government will also seek to make Wales the first choice for international food companies’ manufacturing and processing operations.

The Welsh Government is consulting on its Action plan for the Food and Drinks Industry. The full document is available on the Welsh Government website and interested parties have until 3 March 2014 to respond.

The Minister intends to publish the final plan in spring 2014.

This statement is being sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, (BOW), not to play secretary or distribution manager for the Minister and wag food, but to make sure that all those involved in food, be they producers, chefs, hoteliers, accommodation providers I do this so that they are kept up-to-date for something that is so important for the future of their businesses.

One of our BOW did browse briefly through the report yesterday and gave me the following feedback: I’ve read many government reports over the years and I do have to say that this is more readable than most. Some sections I do not agree with, but I shall most certainly give them my views before 3rd March 2014.

I’ve not had time to read it as yet but I too will certainly pout my views forward, and I am aware I wasted time and money doing this last time and they were ignored, I and many others, were adamant that wag food could not do a 10 year food policy, which has now been proved correct, but instead of crowing, I just despair of the state of food and drink in Wales, pity so far I can’t share the Minister’s optimism. What’s also annoyed me is that 4 meetings have already been arranged and assume that’s it but these are held in Aberystwyth, Cardiff of course, and what seems to be one of wag foods favourite venues, the glass house commonly known as Botanic Gardens. For those of you in the north your only option is Llandudno Junction.  Well it must have been difficult for wag food to have had to arrange four meetings, bearing in mind last weeks’ meeting in Pembrokeshire was pretty pointless, but I do think it shows clearly once again those that get paid every month and those that will be able to claim travelling expenses apart from the two out of four that are already held in government offices! I spoke to a few people yesterday that are lucky enough to be paid monthly and despite my efforts I don’t think they understood the difference between us. They just wanted a chat, to pick my/our brains, not getting that Ian and I were there to work. But if they wanted a consultation, we can do that, which will be followed by an invoice…………………..

I’ve quickly scanned a Priority 3 – Climate Change – and although I can see it’s a Welsh Government challenge I cannot see how in the big scheme of things, with the massive problems producers still, that climate change will ever be a priority when most producers are struggling to distribute their goods, without the worry of Welsh farmers markets and festivals.

I can only urge, beg and plead with you all to send in your views. It’s really getting pointless for me to try to put your grumbles and grievances forward to wag food. I would certainly have quizzed the Minister on Monday if the Minister had done us the courtesy of saying he’d take any questions. But the last time I did an interview with him he said he didn’t get complaints from food producers only from farmers. My response to that is to make yourself as freely available to food producers as you do to farmers and their Unions, the NFU and FUW. However the Minister did say that the role of government is to support, it’s the government’s job to listen……………………….

I’d also love to know how many food stands he went to talk to in the food hall. According to my count there were 45 stands, in fact I ask the same question of all those who where there yesterday from the food policy team and wag food department. But just in case you are interested – Ian and I covered the lot and that was excluding our food shopping! It’s one on our rules that unless a food producer is with us on BOW we can’t purchase from them. So it was a brilliant bonus to have so many BOW there, especially when we don’t see some of them that often, I literally BOW food shop until I dropped. There were so many rumours going around the food hall, too many to cover here, including why was the former Head of Food spending so much time in the there. I don’t like the food hall; it’s as simple as that it’s a barn of a place with no atmosphere at all. The producers are restricted so much in what the can sell, no alcohol to drink there and then, no hot food over a couple of pounds. Nowhere for people to sit unless you were that tired you wanted to watch a cookery demo – bearing in mind the TV screen and overhead camera weren’t working when I stopped by. But there again that is obviously not what it wanted by RWAS and wag food. I’d always thought of this new expensive food hall as there to really showcase Welsh food and to tempt the Welsh public into buying their wares, not just on the days but where they can buy locally. But not for the first time I’m singing off my own hymn sheet – but over the last nine years ‘twas ever thus with wag food.

There were some superb stands in the food hall, not just on the quality of produce but the effort that had been put into their Christmas gift packaging and the decorations. Hours and hours of extra work and do wag food do a best trade stand? Well not as far as I know, but I do ask why not?  If only there was someone in wag food on my wavelength……….. I only I did spend so much of my time having to tell them where they are going wrong and why few producers have any faith in them.

So as I dislike the food hall that much and that’s before I even start on the high tradestand prices, how difficult it is for producers to get their goods in, parking for some of them, my latest ploy was to suggest some try the farmers’ market held outside the Members building. I wasn’t over struck on it last year and please don’t sigh and say I’m never satisfied, unless someone keeps pushing and raising standards, NOTHING will ever improve. So happy to play secretary to our BOW, we again circulated details of this market to all our producers, knowing it would help quite a few of them, and quite a few took it up. The layout was better this year just one straight run, there was some signage there, but not enough for me, but I do appreciate that RWAS are not the easiest to deal with, in fact, most of the time, they are impossible. But that’s who RWAS are. RWAS can do their own thing, as they answer only to themselves. One company selling pasties, Little Welsh Deli, wasn’t allowed to sell hot pasties, only cold. Can you believe that? I was on owner Ryan’s stand and he was asked three times – just whilst I was there, for warm pasties but had to say no and those people walked away grumbling about how stupid it was and I totally agree. Every market and festival I’ve seen Little Welsh Deli at they do hot food and they do samples of pasties as tasters to tempt the public, but not ‘allowed’ at the Winter Fair. Why? I believe that the RWAS get paid a fortune for the concession vans that are all over the showground and it is those traders that don’t want anyone else to sell hot food. How pathetic is that? At somewhere like the RWAS, you’ll have masses and masses of people all day long that don’t care about what they eat as long as they eat something – fair enough let them get on with it. But I want the Royal Welsh to offer local people and our visitors, and we are talking a minority here, those who want quality Welsh food, the chance to buy it and eat it there. Why does the RWAS insist on strangling our food producers and farmers, who only want to make a reasonable living?


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  1. producer

    December 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I find it hard to believe that this time this lot will actually listen to what we say and then act on it.
    They didn’t last time

  2. producer 2

    December 4, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I’m the same view as last comment think we’d be stupid to think the government are really going to ask our opinions and act on what we say
    most of us in food wouldn’t know the minister if we fell over him.
    Know new head of food is fairly new still but wouldn’t know him either – was he as the winter fair?
    Appreciate this full and entertaining report on Winter Fair, good of you to bother as rwas and wag don’t work with you and don’t listen to you either

  3. Benji7???

    December 4, 2013 at 11:29 am

    I didn’t see Mr Smyton on Monday, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there.
    If he was I’d have taken him around the food hall myself and certainly made sure he met our BOW producers

  4. trader

    December 4, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    can’t afford to go to the winter fair and no selling hot food in the market which is not fair. Really angry to read this joke.
    wag food listen to us that would really be a first
    pay lip service and tick another box that’s where we still are.

  5. Peasant

    December 4, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    I am wading through the two documents, as it is only fair to try and answer some of the questions. If we are ignored, then we can complain, but if we do not make our feelings on this consultation clear, we are certain to be ignored!

    I am worried that they see only 45% of producers with “assurance” bits of paper, and the need to change this. I have looked at all the assurance schemes and they are not really worth the paper they are written on, let alone mean anything to the consumer. The current schemes did not stop the horse meat scandal, but it was not the small producer implicated. I am sure most of us producing meat products could tell you the date of birth, dam and sire of the meat on the counter, its likes and dislikes, and how we reared it in detail. No assurance scheme can cover this, so it will be more boxes to tick for little or any reward.
    I intend to work slowly through the docs and make notes and then respond. If we all did this, maybe, just maybe, they will understand where we are coming from.

  6. Benji7???

    December 5, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Thanks for your comprehensive comments
    This is one of many areas where wag food appear not to have a clue and have little interest in finding out either
    assurance /scores on the doors have not been well thought through and standards across Wales are very much flawed.
    It’s a pity wag cannot talk to the micro producers in all areas of our food sector but as I’ve been saying that for nine years why would they change now?
    However after saying that I’d appreciate you passing your views on – Ian has already started and is disputing the figures quoted but that will be posted as soon as. But if you can push others to do the same as you then as you rightly say we can and will follow it up if we are ignored again. After the last flawed food plan it was pointless with the regime in wag food to do anything about it but I’m not letting that happen again no matter how much of my time it takes up.

    Speak now or at least before March, or forever – stop moaning. Accept wags plans as they stand and on your head be it!!!!!

  7. beer boy

    December 5, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Because you keep nagging us Kath I’ll read it or try to and put my views forward, but I have no faith it will make the slightest difference to mini/micro producers like me. We’ve never been important but you are the first person that has talked to me and grasp that many micro companies would love another part or full time person, but can’t afford it, it’s that basic.
    The last regime didn’t care for us small people and neither will this lot.
    I know you have hopes for new chap as head, but I’ve not and doubt very much if I’ll ever see him, let alone meet him. Did he do the winter fair? did he do the farmers market? You said you didn’t see him, but was he even there?
    Davies is talking about training and climate change which is total rubbish to the likes of me trying to rely on markets and festivals, delis and the like. Climate change is a government problem anyway isn’t it? Why drag it into food producers problems?

  8. cup cake

    December 5, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Sorry I’m NOT with you on this one.
    I’ve no faith in civil servants or politicians
    I’m not happy that you are pushing this for them – why are you bothering?
    This site clearly shows how badly you have been treated over last few years I don’t get where you are coming from.
    don’t normally feel off side with you but sure am now.

  9. Benji7???

    December 5, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks for putting up a comment and of course you are entitled to your views.
    I don’t really feel I’m pushing this for them. I’m still smarting over the way wag food have treated us – they are all over this site like a rash, but it’s fork2fork they pay £43k to keep their poor site updated. We struggle to get a half page advert out of them a YEAR. So thanks for your support.
    My take although I’ve not read all their paperwork yet and when I’ve done so more comments will be posted.
    But as our food producers are still not happy with wag food, they’re frightened to talk to wag food about issues they have they are scared to talk to festival organisers in case they are then banned.
    So what do you do? Allow wag food to carry on determining your future when they are basically clueless of the problems you are facing?
    This is not an idea situation I’ll accept that but it is also not of my making.
    I’ve no hotline to wag food and as you have said yourself I’ve hardly treated well by them
    Wag haven’t given me £900 as they have to FBA.
    But the choice is yours. Don’t bother filling it in but then don’t complain later.
    Wag food do not understand micro businesses as our BOW producers tell me frequently. But I cannot change the things you want changing and you and they must accept that.
    This is really not what I’m paid to do and it’s just frustrating changes are never made.

  10. moon man

    December 5, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I will never understand how this government operate, even in theory.
    They need to talk to us and not just every 5 or six years. It’s no wonder they haven’t the vaguest ideas of the problems we are facing they need a reality check with the self-employed.
    Markets are poor by and large, festivals we’ve no idea what is happening, despite having our stock to feed in the hope we’ll have some trade next year. True taste has been dumped despite spending about 5 million quid on it, but we are not all ask if we agree. The minister and his cronies have decided, well bully for you guys. Wish I could vote on your salaries
    Kath you’ve worked hard for us and not happy with the comment disagreeing about the latest plan and saying you are backing the gov.
    Would this person have known anything about it if you had not either sent it to him, or put it up on here?
    She/he’s got a cheek considering you’re not funded for this site never mind all the work you put in with this government and civil servants.
    he should let off at fba who have had £900k
    sure you’d have been happy with that payout.

  11. BBB

    December 5, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    My understanding is that Mr Smyton was at least double booked so could not attend the Show on either day…

    Quite what the (un)civil servants running his diary were playing at is a mystery – The Royal Welsh Shows should be an absolute Must-Attend for the Head of Food. Given the Minister was also there on Monday to launch a substantial new Policy directly concerning his Department, his absence is extraordinary.

    If I ever do get to see him again, I will be sure to ask him about his priorities and his ability to manage himself and his staff… I won’t however expect a meaningful answer…

  12. beer boy

    December 6, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    The expression flogging a dead horse seems to be how you still are with wag food.

    The people that understand and get the work you are doing is us producers. The magazine and this site are the best. Without this site we’d have no idea what is going on in wag food and now we know we are sick to the back teeth of their poor attitude to us and to you.

    I don’t think you should waste your time with this site simply send it on email to all us in BOW
    Why should you help wag and HCC out unless you charge them to come onto here – that’s would help you and give you payment for what you are doing for food?
    You can’t help those civil servants who still think they know best – it’s pointless. Takes big people to admit they have it wrong