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Archive for January, 2014

End Uncertainty For Organic Producers

23 Jan

Follows is the press release sent through to me by NFU Cymru, shown in full:

The Welsh Government must end the uncertainty for organic producers in Wales and support the sector in developing viable, profitable markets for Welsh organic produce, says NFU Cymru.

This message comes as part of the Union’s response to the Welsh Government’s Consultation on Organic Farming Support 2015-2020. 

Organic dairy farmer Haydn Evans, of Pembrokeshire, who represents NFU Cymru on the NFU Organic Issues Group said, “The lack of policy direction from Welsh Government has been of critical concern to our organic members and a significant contributory factor in the drift back to conventional farming systems.

“There is no doubt that the economic downturn has challenged the development of markets for organic produce whilst costs of production within the sector have escalated.  Yet globally, the market for organic produce is growing year on year and with appropriate marketing support, there are opportunities for organic producers in Wales going forward.” 

In its written response, NFU Cymru highlighted that Welsh Government needs to ensure that future expansion of the organic sector is stimulated by demand for products, with conversion payments that recognise the added costs of conversion and maintenance payments which better reflect the actual costs of organic management.

NFU Cymru has also expressed its strong opposition to the proposed targeting of organic support through the adoption of environmental and/or economic sustainability criteria, arguing that all farmers should be able to access support for organic farming if they so wish. 

 

Mr Evans concluded, “Since all farmers will effectively be contributing to Pillar 2 via pillar transfer, it is essential that any future organic support is available to all farmers in Wales and not limited through targeting.”

   

 
 

No Incentive For Welsh Farmers To Produce Food

20 Jan

I’ve already posted about this decision, but NFU Cymru have sent an update, here it is published in full:

“The incentive to produce food for food security has been taken away from Welsh farmers by the Minister’s decision to siphon off 15% into Pillar 2,” that was the message from Rhys Jones, the newly elected Chairman for NFU Cymru in Carmarthenshire, to the guest speaker, Andrew Slade, the WG Director of Agriculture, during the recent County Conference.

Ed Bailey, NFU Cymru President, agreed with Rhys Jones, who farms near Llanwrda, and added, “I am still struggling to believe, almost a month on, that our Minister has decided to transfer 15% from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 when he doesn’t yet know what he’s going to spend it on. There is no doubt in my mind that this will leave us disadvantaged against our competitors in other parts of the UK as well as in Europe. The Minister states this decision will make Welsh farming more resilient in the future – I fear this has the potential to make some even less resilient.”

Garry Williams, the newly elected Vice Chairman for Carmarthenshire shared his concerns with Andrew Slade regarding the money being spent within Pillar 2. Mr Williams said, “I went to college and a lot of my fellow farmers went to college to learn how to improve their farm business management skills. I am concerned about how much money will be put into Pillar 2 to give farmers business advice – and I question the quality of some of that advice. I don’t want to see Rural Development Plan money squandered and lost in this way. We are the ones farming the land and we should be able to decide how best to run our own businesses.”

Mr Slade, Director of Agriculture, Food & Marine within the Welsh Government, explained that the Minister would be consulting the industry on the next Rural Development Plan in the near future and he urged everyone to use that consultation to air their views as it was a shared endeavour and everyone has a stake.

Euryn Jones, Agriculture Manager for HSBC, the event sponsor, said, “Now that we have had the majority of announcements from the Welsh Government about CAP farmers need to start looking carefully at how their business will be impacted on. It was good to hear from Mr Slade that 80% of Welsh farming businesses won’t see an enormous change to their single farm payments but at HSBC we are more concerned for the 20% that it will have an impact on. There is a concern that the industry won’t respond quickly enough to the changes this reform will bring. Now is the time to start talking to your bank about how to respond to the situation.”

Rhys Jones, Carmarthenshire County Chairman, thanked HSBC for sponsoring the event and Andrew Slade for addressing the conference regarding the recent CAP decisions. He said, “Wales has some of the best produce in the world, all we require in return for this is proper recompense from the market place and where this fails, support to make good this shortfall.”

Well this is proof, if further proof was needed, that our Minister, Alun Davies is not just upsetting and annoying food producers and food festival organisers but farmers, a group with two trade unions supporting them, who are still being treated by him with scant regard.  I fail to see how our Minister can say how important Welsh food and drink is to Wales and then stab our farmers in the back, how does that work?

My thanks to NFU Cymru and our Best Of Welsh producers who have kindly kept me in this loop.

 

 
 

Welshfoodbites Now Has A Search Button

17 Jan

Sorry it has taken so long for us to get a search button on welshfoodbites.

My fault completely, I simply kept forgetting to get it done.

A further surge of new visitors and my being told off has now pushed me to get it done!!

Better late than never ………sorry!

 
 

Food Festival Seminar

14 Jan

Yesterday and again today, I’ve been told by a couple of organisers that there is a food festival seminar being organised early next month in north Wales. Thanks so much for letting me know what is going on, I’m pleased that someone can be bothered to do that – wag food please note.

Apparently the seminar has been organised between the Welsh Government and the Llangollen Food Festival Committee. The seminar is being held to discuss issues facing Food Festivals in Wales and the opening address will be given by the Minister of Natural Resources, Alun Davies.  

Ian tried most of yesterday to contact Cadwyn Clywd, one of the organisers, but he couldn’t get hold of the person he wanted to talk to. Perhaps he’ll try again today.

Perhaps the good news is that the Minister is attending, but the even better news would be if he was taking questions from the food festival organisers attending……………………………….

As far as I recall, there was no food festival organisers conference last year and no-one from wag food could be bothered to explain why this important gathering was dropped. But as this is what we’ve come to expect, it came as no surprise. I’ve not been told officially about this seminar, but there again I was never told officially about those in previous years either. Thanks goodness our food producers and festival organisers are more than capable of doing a job that wag food find so difficult – that of communication.

However I do find it rather ironic that our Welsh Government, a government that purports to be ‘green,’ can believe that holding a seminar in north Wales is a sensible decision rather than hold it in the centre of the country. Is the difference that those working for government and Quangos can claim their mileage, whilst of course their time is paid for?

If further news surfaces I’ll post updates.

 

 
 

Food Festival Funding

14 Jan

Into the new year and surprise, surprise, I’m once again chasing wag food, via the press office as that ‘s how I have to make my enquiries, to allow the press office to then chase wag food. I  asked when we’ll be told what is happening to food festival funding this year.

It’s never been a priority for wag food to let organisers know where they stand on funding. The genuine worry for organisers is will they be getting funding or not, and then what criteria are wag food going to apply. Regular readers will know that I don’t believe wag food are capable of ensuring their criteria are carried through before payments are made to festivals. Last year festivals were supposed to issue press releases, which rarely happened, enhanced by the fact that some festivals didn’t even have a website, whilst others just didn’t bother to keep it updated. Some festivals didn’t even have a list of food producers attending. In my view it was another wag food shambles. Our food festivals should surely have the priority of supporting our food producers, but if organisers are not sending out basic press releases, don’t have a website or can’t keep it updated then it imply isn’t working for them.

As in previous years, Ian and I attended about 20 festivals last year. So it’s reasonable to say that we do have a good idea of what was happening with festivals and we do know as media are not able to ensure that their criteria are enforced. Despite paying two companies, CLES and Wavehill, to under take an evaluation of last year’s food festivals at a cost of £27,800 plus vat, I fail to see how they can do a decent job, let alone a good one, when they are reliant on trawling through organisers paperwork and telephone interviews. For us on the outside looking at food festivals as a whole, that amount of money would have paid for at least another 3 festivals. However the crunch is that is correct, but it wouldn’t have ticked another crucial box for wag food. One Best Of Welsh & Borders producer did tell me that they were 8-10 people from Wavehill, at Hay on Wye festival, but, although I’ve asked wag food, I’ve had no response as to whether that’s correct or not. I also asked wag food why, when the tender did not state attending festivals was required, that Wavehill could afford to send so many people to one festival. Assuming of course Wavehill was paying their people to attend! Was the wag tender so overpriced that Wavehill decided they could afford to attend Hay? Well I’m sure you can guess that this question did not get a reply either and if you are asking why not, so am I!

I’m not sure if wag food just can’t grasp that organisers need to know if funding is available, or perhaps they just aren’t bothered about putting additional stress and pressure on organisers, which is seriously heightened for those running early in the year. But year after year our organisers are put in this position and it does make you wonder why people volunteer for this thankless task. I stick by my view that wag food don’t deserve these people ‘working’ for them when they are treated so badly.

Posted 12Sep13

Is There To Be Food Festival Funding Next Year?

A food producer called in on Monday, asking if we’ve been told whether Welsh food festivals were being funded next year. Well of course I hadn’t been told anything. If I’d heard officially, meaning from wag food, I would have first emailed it around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and then I’d have posted it on welshfoodbites.co.uk

So I contacted the wag press office as I’ve been instructed to do and asked them. Their reply is as follows:

Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Any such rumours are completely untrue as no decision has yet been taken on funding for food festivals in 2014/15.”

So in true journalistic fashion, reading between the lines, I understand their response to mean, wag food have not decided officially yet, but it could well be true.

If producers need more uncertainty in their lives they can usually rely on wag food to provide it.

Monitoring & Evaluation Of Food Festivals 2013-14

Posted 080813

As you are all more than well aware, I’m not at all happy with a further evaluation of food festivals. Something to do with the fact that we are still waiting for Miller Research’s offering on last year’s festivals. I’ve been chasing for this report, but apparently it will be available of wag’s website at the end of this month, although initially I was told June.

Obviously we are not privy as to when wag received Miller’s words of wisdom. However if this report was going to be of assistance to wag this year to decide their latest criteria, you’d have hoped wag would have been pondering over it early this year, wouldn’t you? If that didn’t happen, just what is the point of spending with Miller, so I understand £43k?

Anyway still concerned about this, I asked questions under the Freedom Of Information Act on 2nd July. Questions were as follows:

When was the 2013 – 2014 Monitoring and Evaluation of Food Festivals Supported by the Welsh Government put out for tender?

  1. Which companies submitted tender applications?
  2. When was the tender awarded?
  3. What is the completion date for this tender?
  4. What is the Welsh Government paying the two successful companies for completing this tender?
  5. When will the review be published and available to the press and public?
  6. The 2013-2014 Monitoring & Evaluation of Food Festivals Supported by the Welsh Government, was this put out to open tender or from framework?

Although I’ve not had an acknowledgement, today I received a hard copy response. Puzzling why and emailed FOI warrants a hard copy response dated simply August 2013, but there we are – wag rules. Anyway their words of wisdom are shown in full:

1. The tender was issued on 30th June 2013.

2. Two companies submitted tenders for the work, Miller Research and CLES (Centre for Local Economic Strategies).

3. The tender was awarded on the 19th June.

4. The successful company is expected to submit a final report by 7th March 2014.

5. CLES were the appointed company, Wavehill are approved contractors carrying out some of the work in partnership with CLES. The tender value was £27,800+vat.

6. It isn’t possible to give an accurate date, however we would anticipate that the report would be released Spring 2014 for publication.

7. The tender was issued to companies on the Welsh Government Research and Evaluation Framework Lot 4 – Programme /Project Evaluation.   

So this response still raises further concerns. I’m wondering how wag issued this tender on 30th June but then awarded this same tender on 19th June. How can this be? We all know that wag ‘works’ slowly, but to award a tender before it’s actually been issued is certainly beyond them isn’t it?

The other cause for concern is the cost of these tenders and the wastage in my view of public money. Last year for evaluating about the same number of festivals, Miller got £43k. I’ve not got their report so cannot comment on its contents, but at least they did attend the festivals, so in theory, should have had a good idea of what was going on. This year, CLES with Wavehill are doing this work for £27,800, but the price difference is because these two companies are apparently doing their evaluation by phone along with feedback forms, plus organisers input. Well I know of far too many festivals that are ignoring wag’s stated criteria, but if some organisers are good at ticking wag’s precious boxes, how is this evaluation going to be worth anything? To me it seems silly and we need a system that will work and give us better, more profitable food festivals next year.

Now before any of you ask me why I keep bothering to try and get wag food to see sense, it’s quite simple. For many of our Best of Welsh & Border producers, festival and markets are a vital selling–tool for them, but neither of these sectors is really working well. The wag food festival budget was cut again this year, so it is even more vital that this budget gives value-for money, yet it doesn’t.

If only wag food could learn some lessons……….