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Archive for April, 2014

Wag Guidance – Or Not – On Mobile Foodstands

03 Apr

Regular readers of welshfoodbites will know I’m not partial to mobile vans at wag funded food festivals. When I’m working at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and at the likes of the Royal Welsh, Winter Fair and the Smallholder, I have to accept mobile food vans as those hundreds of thousands of people have to be fed. But food festivals should not be for mobile vans, unless they are officially checked that everything they are serving is produce from Wales. If Welsh produce cannot be guaranteed, then wag food should tighten their criteria and should not be funding them.

Some Welsh food  festivals have got it totally spot-on with sections, or even a separate tent for hot food-to-go, many are now offering chairs and tables or just picnic tables, which is another issue I’ve been complaining about. Wales must make visiting a food festival a wonderful experience by allowing and encouraging visitors to buy food and drink there, then sit down, relax and enjoy your food whilst having a break. To be fair I don’t have a problem with ice-cream vans,  providing they are selling Welsh ice-cream, but I have a massive issue with the doughnut/twizzler-type vans and the vans selling burgers and sausages. I’m certainly not convinced that the vast majority of these vans are selling sausages and burgers that are even remotely Welsh.

That brings me onto to a funny tale that I must share with you. A few years ago Ian and I were travelling homewards and stopped at a café/restaurant we knew in Powys. Chatting with the owner he told us about a massive burger trailer van that called in the previous week having attended the RWAS showground. The two lads ordered – yes – you’ve got it, burgers! The owner queried their order, believing that they must be sick and tired of burgers, but they were adamant that they’d never, ever eat a burger from their own van!! That I think speaks volumes and adds more weight to one of my festival grumbles.

Anyway to get an official answer on mobile vans and in particular, my hate of burger/sausage vans, I contacted the press office, you’ll recall I cannot talk to wag food directly. I asked for a statement from wag food on their policy on ‘burger’ vans at Welsh food festivals. I didn’t bother with the twizzler type stuff vans, just so it didn’t get too complicated. I have wag food’s 2014 festival criteria and mobile vans are not even mentioned. Wag’s criteria state: All events supported will have food activity as the core. 80% of exhibitors must be food and drink exhibitors, of which 75% must be Welsh Food and Drink producers to be eligible for support.  So I asked for wag food’s official guidance to food festivals, if any, on the subject of burger/food vans.

My official response from the press office, which I must say came through quickly stated:

As this is an operational issue, your query should be directed to the festival organisers. However, if the food producer registered a complaint with us directly we would be happy to look into the matter.

An ‘operational issue’, well that’s a vague enough answer isn’t it? Operational issue means what? It’s down to the organisers? Is  recycling an operational issue? Sorry to sound confused, but I am. It seems to me that, wag food are looking at recycling as more important than the quality of food vans attending festivals.

As for the producer making a complaint through wag that’s a joke in itself. If this company had trust in wag, they’d have gone to directly to them in the first place and not asked for my help. Plus, if a complaint is made through wag, then that company would be worried that they’d be blackballed by that festival for ever, plus the organiser will tell other organisers about that company and list them as a trouble-maker. It’s too risky.

I’ve asked some follow up questions, because basically I don’t understand it. I’m annoyed that wag appears to think this issue is unimportant, but recycling is. Green issues above our producers it seems. If the answers warrant it I’ll post them, but not hoping for miracles.……………………. Welsh food and drink is important to us now who said that?????

 
 

Freedom Of Information Reference 8254

01 Apr

Under the Freedom Of Information Act I asked the following questions:

1).        As not all the 32 food festivals did not adhere to the Welsh Government’s criteria, please identify which festivals did not receive the amount the full amount of funding provisionally allocated by the Welsh Government.

2)         With 2013 being the first year the Welsh Government have implemented a ceiling of £10k in funding per festival, which festivals were able to access other government funding? Full details required.

I have now got their response:

1)           Three Food Festivals for the funding period 2013/14 did not adhere to the criteria set for Welsh Food and Drink Producers, as a result they were penalised, the original approved funding offer was reduced pro-rata to the number of Welsh Food and Drink Producers attending. Those affected were:

  • Abergavenny Food Festival  (Initial Wag Funding £10,000)
  • Mold Food Festival (Initial Wag Funding £9,000)
  • Abergavenny Christmas Food Festival (Initial Wag Funding £8,500)

 

2)         In 2013 the Major Events Unit; Economy, Science & Transport Department provided support towards specific elements outside of the Food Divisions remit to the following:

  • Pembrokeshire Fish Week (£21,000)
  • Gwledd Conwy Feast (£25,000)

I sent these questions through under FOI because for years I have been bombarded with complaints from our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers regarding food festivals. Far too many saying they cannot get in some food festivals and have no come back to the standard organisers explanation that, ‘sorry we are over subscribed’. As a journalist, wanting to look at both sides, I can appreciate that popular festivals where producers can actually make decent money are going to have a waiting list, that’s understandable. Plus quite a few festival organisers that advertise with us have given me their side too in no uncertain detail. It’s brilliant for them if they are over subscribed, it’s proof that they have done their job exceedingly well. It literally means that they can then pick and choose to give their visitors a food festival with plenty of variety. My complaint arises, and has done for years, when Welsh producers are either not accepted, or are after years of supporting a festival are simply thrown out whilst some of those festivals accept non-Welsh stands and then give them the better trading spots. Last year wag food changed it’s criteria saying that funded festivals must have 75% Welsh food stands, I challenged wag food asking how there were going to follow up on this, but have made little progress. I found if puzzling that criteria were issued but no clear pathway to ensure they were obeyed. So following Abergavenny, Ian and I sent a tradestand list through this saying that this festival didn’t match wag’s criteria. It took us hours to do this work and annoying it was never acknowledged. We understand that wag food then asked all festivals to send in their list of stands taken and state which were Welsh stands. So it appears our message got through to wag food as we work as their unofficial workers.

So I’ve followed this up with this FOI but have to say that I disagree with the response I’ve received and have gone back to them for more information. Abergavenny is the festival our Best Of Welsh & Border producers complain about the most and of course Abergavenny are victims of their own success, but they have been very well funded by wag food to achieve that growth. Festivals and markets give us so much additional work and it’s now reached the point that we are not sure where to go next. Thankfully some Assembly Members are being  supportive of what we are doing, they understand that this isn’t our paid-for job,  but value what we are doing for Welsh food.

My hope is that message will get through to wag food, because we simply cannot go on like this, we just can’t …….

There will be a follow-up post, be assured. When that will be who knows?