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Update Food Policy Evaluation

31 Mar

People are still asking my view on the above, so perhaps it’s worthwhile if I do my own brief evaluation. We were summoned in 2010 to give our opinions on the Government’s proposed 10 year food plan. We told them there and then that a 10 year plan would not work and we suggested a five year plan, but we were either ignored or over ruled, the result was the same. The government went their own sweet way, planning food for ten years. There’s little satisfaction in us being proved right, with no idea how much money has been thrown at this 10 year plan or has been wasted but more importantly many of us were furious about being ignored.

Ignoring food producers when they give their time freely, has in my view damaged the industry, certainly at micro level. But now along with True Taste, wag food have dumped their 10 year plan and off we go again with another 4 meetings held across Wales. The difference this time is these meetings were all scheduled and held during the day, which is perfect for Quangos and we all know Wales has more than it’s fair share of those! But what no-one in wag food appears to have given a single thought to, is how many producers can afford to take at least half a day off and drive to their nearest meetings? I’ve no idea why this never occurred to them, to me it’s obvious, but then I haven’t got the luxury of a salary dropping into my bank each month regardless! Micro producers for some reason don’t seem important to wag and I think many micro food businesses have the chance of growing giving the right support. Seemingly this does not appear to be on wag food’s agenda. Fifty micro producers could easily be helped to employ one person per company – that’s 50 people in employment and learning a trade that Wales needs.

However to try and prove my theory, I’ve asked for lists of attendees to each of the 4 public meetings. My request was refused on the grounds of Data Protection. We understand about 30 people on average attended each meeting, which is pretty poor in my book. Then Ian was told that only 77 responses in total were received. We understand that wag food have 900+ producers listed, so I find this appalling.

How did wag food contact everyone involved in food so they were aware of this feedback? Or did they just not bother apart from posting on their website? Apparently at one of the meetings a further seminar was requested which was held last Tuesday at the Royal Showground in Builth Wells. All 77 that sent in feedback were invited, which included Ian and I, but then I was told by the press office that I could attend, but would have to leave after the Minister’s speech, charming! Ian and I then spent ages emailing and phoning to eventually be told on Monday that we could attend, but had to ensure everyone knew we were press, how annoying and pathetic. I would have thought the press office would know by now that Welsh Country is bi-monthly and I was not going to be reporting on something that has not been decided. Plus our editorial policy is to support our advertisers and wag food are not yet back working with us, so there will be no coverage in the magazine, in anyway. Welsh food of course continues to be important to us and we do like to know what is going on, journalists are nosey creatures by nature, hence we thought we’d take valuable time out from our day jobs and attend.

Well to sign in and be given badges for Welsh Country Foods, not Welsh Country magazine, was not a good start, but just as well that as usual we’d already got our own badges on. As expected, the shiny suits and shoes abound as Welsh Quangos were out in force again. Ian and I stayed only for the morning session as we were off to Countryside Alliance Awards, but we only knew of one other food producer in attendance. I could well be wrong on that, but certainly not by much, as Quangos dominated for sure. To be paid to attend and collect your mileage is certainly an incentive, but that’s an incentive most food producers haven’t got and that’s a fact that wag food, sadly seem to have ignored. But the bottom line is that without our Welsh food producers, our many and varied Quangos would not exist.

Of course there was a question of anonymity or lack of from the notes from wag which I posted about in December and that cannot have helped this situation. Wag food will never tell me who has responded, but I suspect that every Welsh Quango related to food will have, without a doubt, responded. Which means the picture wag food has been given to me is blurred and not accurate of our food industry.

I’m extremely disappointed that I’ll not get a breakdown of the 77 respondents, but also disappointed that much of our industry couldn’t be bothered. If I was wag food I’d want to know why, but to save them puzzling, as many of them read welshfoodbites.co.uk, they’ll know that they’ve not re-established any trust, especially with micro producers. We circulated wag food’s draft action plan around our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and posted it on welshfoodbites.co.uk, although it’s certainly not our job to do so, but I’m sure wag food are grateful for our support!!! I emphasised that it was irrelevant how fed-up food producers were with wag food, feeling they were always ignored by them, but that this proposal, when finalised, will define Welsh food for the next six years. Despite my pleas, many of you still refused to participate and send your thoughts and views through to wag, although I think some did saying they’d no trust in wag food, so they were not prepared to waste mot of their time. Some said the feedback form was too complicated and that you didn’t feel it applied that much to you and your business. I can accept that, but only up to a point. You could just have easily put an email together and given them your opinion, telling them what’s right, what’s wrong, what you want changing and why. That is surely not too tough to get your voice heard.

Anyway the consultation is closed, you’ve missed the boat and I’m still unhappy with only 77 responses. But if you are not one of those 77 who did respond, please don’t dare give me a hard time moaning about festivals and markets, distribution, problems accessing grants, staffing, lack of communication from wag food etc. etc. this was your opportunity to raise these points with the civil servants that are paid to work for you, the people that can make your life easier or harder…………………………………………………………!!

 

 

 
 

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  1. Mr H

    April 1, 2014 at 10:20 am

    As always you have the knack of getting sensible points over to us, whilst telling us much of what went on. There’s no way I could attend any of these meetings and I’m angry that wag decided to have 5 meetings during the day. Meetings for their Quangos – pure and simple. Producers at the lower levels for sure are not important.
    Any idea how much it costs to fund all wag foods Quangos?
    Wag should not have been allowed to get away with having day meetings, but who’s going to stop them?
    I did send an email through and my language was polite, not that I feel that way about this lot.
    It’s more of the same food talk but with much more spin.
    77 responses, the bulk of them from Quangos? I bet they were.
    Pity you have to put up with this rubbish from wag food Kath is just wasting your time.

     
  2. Benji7???

    April 1, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I agree with you, but I can assure you wag food are not asking me to do anything. It’s my choice to challenge wag I’m sure they’d prefer I didn’t bother.
    But if our Best Of Welsh & Border producers aren’t happy then I am not taking a vow of silence
    Having said that, it just feels like banging you head against a brick wall going over the same problems year after year. Why wag cannot improve is a mystery to me still nine years later………………………………

     
  3. Foodie

    April 1, 2014 at 11:17 am

    I responded to the consultation, but having searched my inbox, can find no invitation to attend anything! I doubt if I could have attended a meeting during the day because I am working – that is how most of us produce something! Oddly enough it does not just drop from the sky!
    Maybe my response did not meet their expectations of a happy producer….

     
  4. trader

    April 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I wish I’d have done what you asked me to do and fill in their survey, sorry, but despite your sound reasoning I’ve no belief in wag food.
    You said new guy would be a help, but yet to see you proved right on that so far.
    I’ve no right to complain about food again, that’s what you’ve said and understand where you are coming from. Hope you’re at Gorseinnon?

     
  5. Jo

    April 9, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Sorry Kath I have let you down. I’m one of many that couldn’t be bothered filling in their forms or taking time away from work to attend a meeting. Why couldn’t the meetings be at night? Oh, because the Quangos wouldn’t be happy working nights. The Quangos are then to wag more important than us producing food. The one you went to after a lot of fuss was a farce, with only a couple of true businesses there.
    But I’m sorry, you did nag us to write and send something in.
    I understand what you have been saying on here. Thanks to you and the team, you’ve kept me in the loop of what was happening, as wag didn’t, but you do part of their job for them!!!
    I did go to one 4 years ago and we were totally ignored. More boxes to tick rather than listen and understand us. I’ve no trust in this lot of overpaid civil servants and no belief in this shower. They are totally out of touch and it’s annoying they can get away with it. No business could.