Archive for December, 2014

Food and Drink Wales Industry Board

19 Dec

I’m still being asked what’s happening with the proposed Food & Drink Wales Industry Board. So here’s the story:

The interviews took place as the government promised, with the first meeting of the board scheduled for the 8th December. We understand that those interviewed are still waiting to be told if they’ve been successful, as the Welsh Government cancelled their first scheduled meeting.    

Apparently The Minister is still considering the proposal for Board membership, there is still some optimism, not quite sure where apart from government circles, that the Board will be announced early in the New Year with the first meeting held during January.

Well how do you sum this up? From my side I find it rather pathetic. You have hard-working business people who have take the time and trouble to apply for a board post, have gone along for an interview, then scheduled the 8th December in their busy diary – just in case they were successful, but now have to wait for a yes or a no sometime in the New Year.

However that is not all that concerns me. I’m also apprehensive as to how fair a representation of the Welsh food and drinks industry this board will actually be. Micros have expressed their lack of interest in this board because they simply haven’t time to put themselves forward. Although we have no idea who went forward for an interview, I’m sure there are few, if any micro producers; they simply haven’t the time to leave their businesses. This means that the micro sector, once more will be ignored, which wag food is so good at doing. My fear is that the board will comprise of Quangos and big businesses that are all more than capable of fighting their own corner. If any food funding is available, they’ll be the guys one the front row with their begging bowls held out.    

When more news comes through I’ll post an update, but meanwhile I can only hope that my fears are unfounded, but…………………



Update On Fork2Fork

09 Dec

There has been huge interest and puzzlement from food producers as to what, if anything, the Fork 2 Fork project would achieve. So I asked the Scheme Manager of the SCES for some financials and this was his response:   

The Fork2Fork Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme project was originally approved for two years but under the terms of the scheme projects can ask for extensions up to a final date of 30 June 2015.  This project has been extended twice and the last extension was approved by me as Scheme Manager on 10 October 2012. 

In respect of the project information it was originally approved with a start date of 2 July 2009 and a completion date of 30 June 2011 with total grant award of £799,736 and at the last extension the completion date was 31 March 2014 with a total grant award of £898,497.  This comprised of (approximately) £55,000 for the second national conference that was delivered in 2012 and a further £43,761 for additional activity for the website, some further information circulation and an extension to the independent evaluation as the project will now run over a longer period. 

Today trawling through wags’ website I uncovered the following:

Francis Balsom Associates Ltd project was Real Food from Real People. Deliver a major consumer-focused awareness raising and marketing campaign throughout Wales between Dec 2009 – July 2011. Objective is to promote Direct Sales of Food and Drink by primary producers to consumers and other related businesses through Farmers Markets, Farm Shops, Box schemes and Internet sales.

However what I find horrific is the amount shown that was awarded – £1,378,497. This does not agree with the figure I was given by the Scheme Manager. My other query is does the £1,378,497 include the additional payments of £55k and £43,761?  Or do I need to add these on as well?

Why have I been told that the payment to Fork2Fork was £799,736, with two additional payments of £55k and £43k, when wag’s website shows a figure of £1,378,497? 



New Date For Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival

09 Dec

Sunday 24th – Monday 25th May 2015.

Many of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers are regulars at the Cowbridge Food & Drink festival and I can understand why as it is such a good festival. Cowbridge have changed their date for next year, instead of running in October, I think a reminder is in order as the closing date for tradestand applications is the 31st December.

To help, we are emailing all our BOW producers with Cowbridge’s Expressions of Interest Form but it is important you get that completed as soon as possible. I appreciate at this busy time of year many of you might just forget to apply, but I’m hoping our reminder will secure you a stand at this brilliant festival. Do bear in mind though that this festival is so popular they are always oversubscribed for stands. So my suggestion would be to fill in your form carefully and don’t expect the committee to remember who you are and what you sell!!!!

Cowbridge is one of my favourite festivals and I love working with their PR guru Polly Wilson. Many of you will already be aware of the change of date to the May Bank holiday and if they get the better weather that they deserve it will be another great and profitable festival for our BOW producers.


When’s A Journalist Not A Journalist?

08 Dec

That was a question I posed on this site on 7th August. The post was rather a long one, explaining in detail the problems I’ve been having with wag food trying to get food questions answered.

On the 7th August I answered that that question, but according to wag food, it’s when a ‘journalist’ writes a blog. Wag’s standard and often repeated response to me is that the Welsh Government press office does not engage with the blogging community. Well in my view they don’t engage with the food producers either, but that of course is their choice.

Right, so hope you understand that, wag will not engage with the blogging community. So when I as Kath Rhodes, Editor of Welsh Country magazine, ask a question, I get told their blogging community spiel – even though the government replies to me are addressed and sent to Kath Rhodes Editor of Welsh Country magazine. Isn’t that odd? CAn you unerstand their thinking?

My constant question to them over the last few months is the same one – I have been editing and publishing Welsh Country magazine (WCM) for ten years, so why are wag food trying to brush WCM aside? I mentioning wag food in Welsh Country magazine, over 8 -10 pages, so only wag food know what their problem is and they are certainly not discussing it with me.

Welsh Country magazine is the only national magazine in Wales.

Welsh Country magazine is the only title to dedicate up to ten pages to Welsh food and drink every issue.

Welsh Country is the only Welsh media that has the support of over 120 Welsh food and drink producers.

So back to journalism. Wag recently told me: Given your extensive ongoing correspondence with us, principally via our Press Office, and your active involvement as a stakeholder in the recent consultation on our new Food and Drink Action Plan, we have reviewed our communications with you to ensure we are offering the most appropriate level of service. Which has been followed by wag stating: it’s now wag’s intention to treat me as part of the blogging community rather than as a journalist (in the commonly understood sense of the term). 

So in one wag breath, I’m a stakeholder because of my active involvement in the Food Action Plan, but then not invited to the Food Action Plan launch. No idea why, but it seems in wag’s world, I’m an active stakeholder when it suits wag, but then told I’m only a food blogger, because that’s what wag have decided. Wag food in their wisdom have decided Welsh Country magazine doesn’t exist.  Whatever game wag food are ‘playing’, they really do need to play fair and explain the rules and behave as grown-ups.

The wag food department is supposed to be promoting Welsh food and drink. Their press office is supposed to promote Welsh food and drink,  but now I’m declared by wag food to be a food blogger and have now been taken off their press office mailing list. I view that action as petty and pathetic, ‘take her off the list because she’s a food blogger’ – although the job of any press office, but maybe not a government one, is to get as much publicity and coverage as possible, ‘it will save us so much more work if we reduce our press emailing mailing list’ – I think not! Any PR person, and I’ve been one, sends out to all an ssundry in the hope of getting some coverage for their clients. So what harm would it do keeping me on that list? But do bear in mind that this press office do not send out many press releases

Have you ever heard anything so stupid?

However the food department has ‘thoughtfully’ told me that press releases issued by the Welsh Government are available through the news section on their website. Now that was kind of them, but more useful if they told me something I didn’t know – apologies for the sarcasm. Getting press releases is important to journalists, is one of our means of working, but one of the chores of being a journalist is going on dozens of websites each day, it’s so time-consuming and quite distracting. Should I go searching for wag food news once a day or twice a day? Or maybe once a week or twice a week? Or would once a month or would once a quarter suffice? Only a civil servant would come up with telling me to check out their website for news.

Getting rather tired of being pushed around in civil servant circles, I tried one of my Assembly Members who came back with the response: The civil service is Wales is not devolved and ultimately answerable to No 10 Downing Street rather than the First Minister of Wales.

So I tried another of my Assembly Members, who just happens to be rather involved with food. My high hopes were quickly dashed as apart from the standard we are committed to our Action Plan, I got the same blogging response, but no explanation at all about why Welsh Country is being ignored. I was told again that if I had any queries I had to email a Well I tried that as ordered by wag and have not received a reply.

Running a business, you know that you cannot ignore a phone call or an email, nor can you ignore questions that you don’t wish to answer, you just can’t operate in that manner and be successful. Sadly I’m not dealing with a business, but the Welsh Government, and for reasons known only to them; Welsh Country has been discounted and ignored WCM after we set out our stall out to promote Welsh food and drink. So where has it gone wrong? Answers on a postcard please or simply leave a comment. I can only put it down to me asking too many questions that wag food don’t wish to answer. But instead of chatting ‘off the record’, and yes I do that on a regular basis, or taking time to explain exactly where they are coming from and what they are planning, I’m now in the position of being treated – no, rather ignored, now wag have declared me a food blogger. Wag food seem to find that label easier to attach to me than answering my questions. Welsh Country magazine, has in wag food eyes, seemingly disappeared.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told wag food to communicate, not just to journalists, but more importantly to food producers. But so far, that is beyond them. Taking me off their press mailing list must make them feel in charge and powerful but I’ve spent years working in PR & Marketing and getting your message out – yes – even to food bloggers  – is still important. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

If this is the way wag food chooses, in theory anyway, to promote Welsh food and drink I can only say yet again that you couldn’t run a business in that manner…………………………………….



Update On Spring Festival

04 Dec

an approached trade stand sector of RWAS in June asking if they could confirm a rumour  that Steve Shearman was not running the Farmers’ Market at the Spring Festival in 2015. Ian also said, if the rumour was confirmed, that we might possibly be interested in running the food section. Ian got a prompt response saying RWAS had not heard from Steve but would be in touch when they did hear from him.

Six months later and we’d had no news. On 1st December we attended the Winter Fair and there were even more rumours at next year’s Spring Festival.  Ian emailed RWAS again on 2nd December, also asking why his email string failed. The response he received is shown as follows:

The Society decided on the 18th November that the Food Hall should henceforth be the focal point for food exhibitors at the Spring Festival and that it should be managed in-house. It is expected that it will become a food court for small artisan producers from Wales and the Border Counties embracing food stands, mobile catering outlets and a seating area for visitors, but the criteria and precise details are yet to be determined.

It seems no further explanation was needed as to why Ian’s email string failed. We’ve now been told that the RWAS have made their decision. As regards stand prices etc. I’m afraid food producers will just have to wait and see if they can afford to attend, should they be allocated a stand!

I can understand why this post on Spring Festival has created interest as Steve Shearman is well though of throughout the Welsh food and drink industry.


Farmers’ Market Changes At Royal Welsh Spring Fair

02 Dec

Rumours were rife yesterday at Winter Fair about what was happening about the Farmers’ Market at the Spring Festival next year. Thankfully a thoughtful food producer had already kept me in the loop, but for those of you not aware, here in full is the latest news:

The End Of A Chapter At The Royal Welsh Spring Festival

Farmers’ Markets in Wales has recently been told, by an RWAS staff member, that the Society has decided it no longer wishes the Farmers’ Market to be part of the Spring Festival but rather that the Food Hall will take over and be run along the same lines as at the Royal Welsh Show and Winter Fair. This brings to an end the farmers’ market presence which has been a popular feature of the former Smallholders Show and more recently Spring Festival since 2004.

It was in that year the then WDA, who were contracted to run the Food Hall at the three annual RWAS Shows, asked Stephen Shearman, who manages Farmers’ Markets in Wales, to take over the running of the Food Hall at the Smallholders Show. There was funding available which enabled reasonable stall fees to be set allowing a greater focus to be made on small scale businesses. The ‘small is beautiful’ mantra fitted well with the type of visitors attending the Show, and in its heyday, the Farmers’ Market was both popular and successful.

Farmers’ Markets in Wales pioneered the offering of refreshments directly from the attending producers many of whom where farmers using their own produce as ingredients. This grew in popularity and after a few years had largely displaced the traditional fast food offering.

The Society changed the name of the Show to the Spring Festival some years ago and its nature has changed. The Welsh Assembly withdrew funding in 2011 since when the Farmers’ Market has been self financing which is no small achievement.

It remains for Farmers’ Markets in Wales to wish the Society good fortune in achieving its aims with the hope that the many producers who have attended over the years will find suitable accommodation. For those wishing to find out more about the Spring Festival 2015 please contact the Spring Festival Director: Kay Spencer

To say that food producers were concerned with this news would register as an understatement. Ian and I tried to get an official update on Monday at the Winter Fair, but let’s say, ‘we were unable to do so!’

The Smallholder/Spring Festival has regularly been covered on welshfoodbites, but let me give you my take on the situation. Welsh food should always be showcase with wag food and visit Wales getting behind Welsh food at every opportunity. Stephen Shearman did a brilliant job, not only running the food hall at the Spring event, but introducing a farmers’ market at the Royal Welsh in the midst of the show ground. The market is a great addition to the show and a wonderful opportunity for smaller producers to be able to take a stand at the RWAS and get their message out there and sell some produce!

The Welsh food and drink side of the Royal Welsh has always been a mystery to me as I cannot understand how wag food can run the Food Hall at the RWAS and the Winter Fair, but the Smallholder/Spring Show was handed over the Stephen Shearman but then treated as an outsider. This though has also changed in that wag no longer appear to be in the driving seat, but have not taken their hands off the steering wheel. As ever though with wag food, nothing is at all clear. Apologies, I digress. Even when the new food hall was built, the farmers market always ran in the old food hall. But in 2011 wag food created new criteria that insisted food festivals had to have food as the core, which meant in wag speak, that shows or events that had food alongside, not just total food, would not get funding from the food festival budget. This was another wag food rule to obey, fair enough. But my query which was raised with wag food at the time and not solved, was that the Smallholder was never listed on the food festival funding list which of course was agreed and produced by wag food themselves. So that to me at least meant that as Smallholder’s funding didn’t come from that budget, so why did wag food’s latest criteria have anything to do with the Smallholder show? After further digging I found that the Smallholder Show was funded from the Promoting Welsh Food Budget, but once again that didn’t make much sense. Why was the Smallholder treated as the poor relation and why didn’t wag food do something to sort it out? After asking Stephen to take it over why didn’t they give him some support? Which actually meant wag food were supporting food producers…………………

So since 2011 Stephen has worked tirelessly to put on a food show that would do Wales proud. But instead of wag deciding this show should be funded, they left him to it, and without funding Stephen had no choice but to raise stand prices which meant some producers couldn’t afford to attend this popular event.

It’s a sad state of affairs that a guy who is so passionate and committed to Welsh food has not been supported by wag food but instead has had endless hurdles put in place instead. None of this has ever made sense to me, maybe it would if I was sitting in a government glass house, but out in the real world of Welsh food it is another pointless exercise that has hindered the people wag food are supposed to be supporting –  the Welsh food producers.

As wag food are still not talking to me, please don’t ask me what will happen next on this sorry saga. If you are concerned, worried or like me just puzzled, I suggest you either ask wag food yourselves, or email RWAS or one of your many Assembly Members.  But good luck on those options……….