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Archive for March, 2015

Applications Open For Further Members Of Food & Drink Wales Industry Board

30 Mar

This came through this morning and is shown in full:

Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans, and the interim Chair of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board, Robin Jones, are inviting industry representatives to join the shadow Board.
The Board is the voice of the food and drink industry in Wales, providing direction, sharing vital information and encouraging networking.
The interim Chair and shadow Board have been invited by Ministers to undertake a further recruitment exercise to increase the breadth of coverage of the Board, and to encourage applications from under-represented groups.
The Deputy Minister said,“The food and drink industry is one of our largest business sectors, employing over 170,000 people. Supporting the industry to develop and move in positive new directions is a key priority for the Welsh Government with the aim of growing sales in the sector by 30% to £7 billion by the year 2020. A Food and Drink Wales Industry Board is vital for our Action Plan to become industry-led and become the voice of the wider sector in Wales. To ensure a truly representative voice we are keen to ensure the Board attracts applications from women, disabled people, young people and individuals with an ethnic minority background who are genuinely interested in the work of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board and can contribute to making it a high performing public body. Whoever is appointed will play a key role in ensuring we embed sustainability, competitiveness, efficiency, productivity, profitability and food safety throughout the food and drink industry and I have every confidence that once the Board is fully established it will enable us to deliver the actions of the Plan and achieve our vision of growing our industry in Wales.”
New members are being sought who have experience of the food and drink sector, particularly business management, marketing, knowledge transfer, research and development and innovation.
The shadow Board is already up and running with a positive introductory meeting under Robin’s chairmanship held on 11 March. The Board will operate in shadow form until it reaches full complement. An official launch will be held in late summer.
Closing date for applications is 24 April 2015.

My plea now is for someone to give me strength, or at least give me some understanding of what is going on in the head of our Deputy Minister for Farming and Food those in wag food who are surely somewhat responsible for guiding her decisions and actions. Quite simply what is going on?

So I have to say I’m rather at a loss as to what is happening. Wag have already advertised for people to join the board and I understood that 40 people were interviewed. Then we were told a shadow board had been set up and after that we were told the shadow Chairman was going to seek out other people to join the board so there was a good mix of companies. So has the shadow chair done this or not? I guess he can’t have otherwise there would be no need to go through this rigmarole yet again. But it does give the impression that there is no rush for this board to be set up.

If you require an update please view posts on this item on 3rd March and 4th March.

Initially the first Board meeting was scheduled for 8th December. Now as April approaches the shadow board has had one meeting and we’ll not have an official launch until late summer.

 
 

Food Matters In Scotland

25 Mar

Food Matters
I’ve mentioned before that I’m sent more food news from Scotland than I am from Wales, just not sure where the logic is there. Anyway here’s an update from the Scottish Government for you:
The Food Commission are to consider how a network of local good food champions could help to encourage the sourcing and selling of locally produced, in-season food in their areas. This suggestion has been
welcomed by Food Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Food Nation – Our Vision:
By 2025, people from every walk of life, will take pride and pleasure in
the food served day by day in Scotland. An increase in Scottish food
exports will attract overseas visitors and the quality of the food we
serve will become one of the key reasons to travel to Scotland. Everyone will know what constitutes good food and why.
All players in Scottish life – from schools to hospitals, retailers,
restaurants and food manufacturers – will be committed to serving such food. Its ready availability will have contributed to improvements in children’s
wellbeing and hence outcomes.
Scottish suppliers will have developed their offer so that local increasingly equals fresh, healthy and environmentally sound. The most intractable dietary-related diseases will have begun to decline as will the
environmental impact locally and world wide of our food consumption. The food industry will be a thriving well-known feature of local and national economies, with each part of Scotland rightly proud of its culinary heritage, past and present.

Well this is another topic I’ve been raising with wag food for years and it’s a regular topic in Welsh Country magazine. If you eat out in Wales, as a rule you just don’t know what you are eating. Some establishments have got it spot on but others can’t be bothered and even if you ask the waiter
what cheese is on the cheese board, he’s then got to go and ask chef when cheeses should be listed on the menu. But my gripe is that all cheeses in Wales should be Welsh. There’s no doubt that Wales has the most wonderful selection of cheeses to choose from at varying price levels. Cheese is just an easy example but we should all try to eat Welsh food and drink. People will not travel to Wales for our Welsh food and drink until the Welsh Government, Visit Wales, our many local councils etc. have got a Welsh food & drink marketing programme in place. As things stand at the moment I don’t think Wales has a workable, productive plan, there are exceptions of course such as the Brecon Beacons National Park who work closely with accommodation providers. But if BBNP can do it ,why can’t others? For the future, I’m not sure Wales has a strong enough plan at present either. I’m one of those that will politely ask questions when I’m eating out, but many others cannot be bothered. So I don’t expect customers to fuel the change as it will be a long job to change this apathy from some eateries and locals too.

Perhaps the Welsh Government is primarily working on exports
and planning lots of foreign trips abroad, which I’m sure they’ll enjoy, but what about the home market? Shouldn’t the home market have been tackled until we get it right? I’m confused as to why this seems to have been, in my view, neglected? Need I remind readers that our Welsh Government backs and supports Scottish whisky in the Senedd……………?

 
 

Why Isn’t Welsh Whisky Available In The Senedd?

19 Mar

That was a question I was asked recently, finding it hard to believe I decided to search for the truth and asked officially, sending through a Freedom Of Information question in the normal manner. Only to be told:
Thank you for your request. Unfortunately you have directed this to the wrong organisation. The Welsh Government would hold no information on this as matters relating to the Senedd are managed by the National Assembly for Wales. You can submit FOI request to them via their website.

Well for me that follows my long held view that the government’s left hand and the right hand are not working together, but we are all aware of very little joined-up writing. So I gained myself another job to send this through again. I’m sure it is not allowed from ‘them’ to do that for me, so here are the questions and answers received in full:
Thank you for your request received 6 March in which you asked:
1. For how long has the Senedd had its own branded Scotch whisky?
The National Assembly for Wales has stocked its branded Scotch whisky since before 2006. Assembly branded items are popular with our customers and the labels are clearly marked to show the origins of the whisky.
2. Why isn’t Welsh whisky available in the Senedd?
Welsh whisky is available in the Senedd shop. We stock a number of items from the Penderyn Welsh Whisky company including whisky, vodka, gin and variety packs.

Assembly branded items are popular with their customers, well I’d like to say I’m pleased to hear that, but in fact I’m furious with their attitude. We are in Wales with a Welsh government that appears to give more lip service than action to promoting Welsh food and drink. Clearly showing the origins of the brand, in my opinion only shows me total thoughtlessness and a stab in the back for whisky distillers in Wales.

Does Scotland reciprocate and sell in its Scottish Parliament either of our two Welsh whisky brands? I couldn’t be bothered checking that out, but think I could guess the answer! If I was stocking any shop in Wales it would be a toal no-brainer that the shop would stock products ‘Made In Wales’. It makes sense on many levels, but first and foremost supporting producers here in Wales. Why would our Welsh Government support and promote another countries’ brand when Wales distils its own whisky? I can assure you that I’m far from being the only one that can see no sense whatsoever in that policy. In fact from people I’ve spoken to, this appears more akin to be the equivalent of a Welsh own goal and Scotland must be smirking all the way to the bank.

As for stocking the Penderyn range that’s great, but I would also suggest the range from Da Mhile Distillery, who as I understand  have put in a new malting floor and in three year’s time, the company hope to have the first truly Welsh whisky.

The Welsh Government say Welsh food and drink are important to Wales  – well my suggestion is they prove that in actions not words and seriuously back out Wesh food and drink producers.

 

 
 

Trading Opportunities For Welsh Companies

05 Mar

I’ve just been sent details of a scheme that has been sent out from the Welsh Government under their Food And Drink banner. It’s inviting Welsh food and drink companies to express and interest in supplying Poundland to deliver on price and value for money. Yes dear readers you have read correctly, Poundland, the single price retailer – that sells everything for a pound.

Should your company be successful in meeting the criteria stated by Poundland, the Welsh Government will give companies a short programme of support from their experienced mentors – this guys, I think means Levercliffe. After this the supplier can begin discussions with the Poundland buyers. I’m not sure how many companies in Wales are large enough to be able to produce, purely on price, to supply Poundland, but I’ve always felt Wales should be raising the standard of its food and drink but a retailer insisting on selling for a pound does not work with me.

Well not for the first time today I’m nearly speechless with the Welsh Government. In Welsh Country magazine I drone on incessantly about our readers supporting our artisan Welsh food and drink producers, but I cannot believe that pushing producers to Poundland raises the bar in Welsh food and drink. I cannot see it. What I can see is that Levercliffe, who have been working for the Welsh Government for ever and a day, have found themselves another marketing niche, but one that for me at least, does not sit at all well. Do we want to raise the Wales Food and Drink brand or devalue it which is what to me Poundland would do.

But are we missing something? Checking the document ‘Towards Sustainable Growth An Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014 – 2020’ published by the Welsh Government in 2014, where it states:

Welsh provenance is something to be proud of and Wales’s reputation for good quality food and drink products is to be promoted as a positive strength.

Please do let me know if you disagree with my view and Poundland is your market ………………..

 
 

Food Festival Funding for 2015

04 Mar

Another helpful person sent the following letter through to me today about food festival funding for this year. Letter is dated 3rd March so there seems to be no urgency for wag food to get this sorted and give our organisers one thing less to stress about. It would have been helpful if wag had sent the application forms out last November and given these poor people some time to sort their applications out. Wag’s lateness with these forms seems to show that they have forgotten that this group of hard-working organisers are helping the wag food department as well as Visit Wales.

I’ve posted the letter below and followed with some interesting criteria, sure you’ll get wag food’s gist from the letter. The paperwork these poor organisers have to understand and then complete is nothing short of mind-blowing. This is red tape taken to the extreme and with no thought at all for those volunteers running food festivals.

3rd March Dear Food Festival Organiser(s)

The application process is now open for this years 2015/16 Food Culture Grant Funding for Food Festivals. Following feedback from the Food Festival organisers Seminar 2014 and review of 2014/15 Food Festivals there have been significant changes to the process and criteria, therefore please ensure that you read the documentation and criteria carefully before submitting an application. Incorrect or in complete applications will be considered in-eligible.  

Applications will be considered within TWO application rounds:

Round 1 – Applications invited from the 27th February – deadline for applications 3pm 18th March 2015.

Round 2 – Applications invited from the 27th April – deadline for applications 3pm 15th May 2015.  

Please find attached the following documents • Streamlined Application Form • Scheme Guidance and Criteria – Annexes I & II   • Procurement Guidance – Annex III.

The following criteria will be used when assessing ALL applications:

1) Does the project demonstrate collaboration and co-operation between Food and Drink and Tourism sector.

2) Is the project part of a wider programme/strategy within the area/region?

3) Does it meet one or more of the objectives to: Improve Visitor Access to and awareness of Welsh Food and Drink • Encourage Welsh hospitality businesses to source more local food and drink • Increase the prevalence of Welsh Food and Drink on menus and retail offering

4) Will the project be sustainable in future years? Is there evidence of longer term self sustainability?

5) Does the project identify clear outputs/objectives? Each application will be considered on its individual merit, and in light of available funding.

Food Culture Grant Scheme – Food Festivals and Events

Criteria – Appendix II

Applications will need to demonstrate that the funding will provide evident advantage to the Welsh food and drink industry. 

Only activities that will clearly add value to the food and drink industry in Wales will be supported.

Funding is not available for activity which adds value to an existing attraction e.g. where a charge is made to enter a premises and the food activity is an added attraction. 

Activity which adds value to an existing market e.g. Farmers Market will not be eligible for support.

New events will not be supported where they compete directly with existing well supported events (i.e. close proximity, conflict in dates)

All Festivals and Events should demonstrate their commitment to longer term financial security and non reliance on Welsh Government funding, to this end it is unlikely that any festival or event will secure funding for more than 3 consecutive years (subject to budget availability). 

Applications will be considered under three tiers of support:

Tier 1 – Funding of up to £5,000 at 50% of eligible costs. 

Regional events with a presence of at least 30 Welsh Food and Drink exhibitors and minimum footfall of 2,500 visitors.

75% of ALL exhibitors must be food and drink exhibitors, of which 70% must be Welsh Food and Drink producers to be eligible for support. Failure to meet this requirement will result in the withdrawal of funding support.

The whole cost of the event must be shown in the application form, however, only the following elements will be eligible for funding:

  • Cookery demonstrations – Promoting local / Welsh produce
  • Marketing / advertising materials
  • Stands / marquee costs

 

This tier will be operated via a streamlined application process, HOWEVER new events this year will need to provide a business plan* detailing aims, objectives and targets, management arrangements with details of relevant experience and track record, budget forecasts (income and expenditure projections) Support from other public sector agencies, for example: local authorities, details of other funding sources including private sector/commercial sponsorship, risk management, marketing plan, plans for achieving sustainability of the festival in future years, Welsh Language provision and Waste Management plans.

Tier 2 – Funding of up to £10,000 at 50% of eligible costs.

National sectoral promotional events with at least 40 Welsh Food and Drink Exhibitors and 5,000 visitors, providing an opportunity to showcase Wales Food and Drink. e.g. Events focused on a particular Welsh Food and Drink sector i.e. Seafood, Drinks, Dairy sector. 

75% of ALL exhibitors must be food and drink exhibitors, of which 70% must be Welsh Food and Drink producers to be eligible for support. Failure to meet this requirement will result in the withdrawal of funding support.

The whole cost of the event must be shown in the application form, however, only the following elements will be eligible for funding:

  • Demonstrations – Promoting local / Welsh produce
  • Sector specific activity e.g. Workshops to improve product   skills/knowledge

 

  • Marketing / advertising materials
  • Stands / marquee costs

 

This tier will be operated via a streamlined application, supported by a business plan* including detailed marketing proposals demonstrating how the activity will raise the profile of the sector on a National stage.    

Tier 3 – Funding of up to £25,000 at 50% of eligible costs.

Welsh Signature Festivals and Events with in excess of 70 Welsh Food and Drink exhibitors and minimum 8,000 visitors. 80% of ALL exhibitors must be food and drink exhibitors, as a minimum events will need to secure 65% Welsh Food and Drink exhibitors.

The whole cost of the event must be shown in the application form, however only activity specifically identified as providing an opportunity to promote Welsh Food and Drink on a National/International stage will be considered eligible, examples of eligible activity could be (but not limited to):

  • Demonstration area specifically promoting Welsh Food and Drink to visitors
  • Workshops to improve skills/knowledge in the preparation and service of Welsh Food and Drink.
  • Marketing / advertising materials specifically promoting Welsh Food and DrinkWe will seek to encourage new and innovative ideas in the promotion of Welsh Food and Drink. 

 

  • This tier will require a streamlined application, supported by a detailed business plan* outlining how the activity proposed will genuinely provide increased sales and presence for Welsh Food and Drink and how the festival will deliver against the Food and Drink Action Plan.
  • Business Plan requirements as a minimum: aims, objectives and targets, management arrangements with details of relevant experience and track record, budget forecasts (income and expenditure projections) Support from other public sector agencies, for example: local authorities, details of other funding sources including private sector/commercial sponsorship, risk management, marketing plan, plans for achieving sustainability of the festival in future years, Welsh Language provision and Waste Management plans.

 

I apologise if I’ve posted too much for you to read but I can assure you there’s much more. I’m flabbergasted by all the forms that have to be completed and I thought previous years were bad enough!

My feeling is that the festivals’ committee have had their input. Although I’m guessing is appears that the ‘big three’, Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy have been clever in getting the funding level on the 3rd Tier raised to £25k. But can someone please explain why? Giving just these three long standing festivals £75k could have helped seven festivals under the previous funding system. I was told by wag food ten years ago that food festivals must look to be self funding and today we are still being told that, but if that’s really the case, and not just more wag words, why raise the top level to £25k instead of £10k? How can that make sense? Why also is this select ‘big three’ then allowed with this extra cash boost, now only have to run with 65% of Welsh food and drink producers, instead of last year’s 75%? If food and drink is so important to Wales, then why are the big three allowed to take less Welsh food and drink stands? What is also worrying is that if one takes the percentage non-food stands and then add in the percentage Welsh Food stands, the criteria actually means that there need only be 52.5%* or 52% Welsh food stands.

*Depending on the level of food festival funding it seems the more Wag money you get, the less Welsh you have to be, ok only marginally.

I cannot believe that after putting together a food festival committee, bearing in mind I don’t know who is on these committees, but it seem that there is a lot of individual food festival interest being put forward and wag food have accepted their input. This is not only puzzling but in my view doesn’t help food festivals at all. Why not give the food festivals are clue as to when food festival funding is going to stop? As wag food has been saying festivals will have to fund themselves for over ten years, do the organisers actually believe wag food that this at some stage will actually happen? So wag food why don’t you tell food festivals now when their funding is going to stop?

 

 

 

 
 

Update On Food & Drink Board

04 Mar

Thanks to the unknown sender of the latest brown envelope to arrive on my desk. I understand you not wishing to be named, but I’m grateful for your help. The envelope contained a letter sent to Assembly Members from our Deputy Minister for Farming and Food. But this latest news is obviously of no interest to food journalists or food bloggers as we’ve no interest in food have we??? But I must ask why is this information not given to us? Why is it kept behind wag’s closed doors. Doesn’t anyone in wag think there is any interest or concern about what is happening with this board? The government says that Welsh food and drink is important to Wales but if that’s true, tell us what is happening. 

Anyway my unknown source thinks I and then you, should know about this and it now means that this letter keeps us in the loop as to what is happening with the Welsh Food and Drink Board. But it’s disappointing that wag food cannot tell me and you officially. I would have thought something that relates to food and drink producers would have prompted them to update those very people, but seemingly not and as for journalists we don’t matter either. 

Anyway here it is in full: 

 24th February 2015

In 2014 the Welsh Government launched and published ‘Towards Sustainable Growth: an Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014-2020′. The plan has been, and continues to be about actions, targets and timescales. It is not a high level strategy, but focuses on the delivery of actions to encourage industry growth and deliver on a number of other Welsh Government priorities including tackling poverty and the greening of growth. There are 48 actions in total.  The actions show the Welsh Government as an active and supportive partner to industry, by providing clarity, certainty, and confidence.

With firm support from industry, we undertook to establish a Food and Drink Wales Industry Board to bring the sector together and help drive sustainable growth. The Board must be industry-led and will provide direction, encourage networking and share market development information. It must take joint ownership of the Action Plan with Government and implement changes. Although Welsh Government will support the Board in its early phases, it will become independent of government and offer direct advice to Welsh Government.

In July 2014, Robin Jones was appointed as interim Chair of the shadow Board. Robin is Managing Director of The Village Bakery. During the autumn the Welsh Government (WG) advertised to recruit potential members of the Board through a “light touch” public appointments process with an appointment panel including Robin.

I am pleased to announce that the following persons have been invited to join the shadow Board:

 David Lloyd, ZER02FIVE Food Industry Centre, Cardiff

Marcus Sherrerard, Dawn Meats, Carmarthenshire

Llior Radford, Llaeth y Lian, Denbigh

Andy Richardson, Volac, Felinfach, Lampeter

Justin Scale, Capstone Organic, Pembrokeshire

Buster Grant, Brecon Brewing, Brecon

Huw Thomas, Puffin Produce, Pembrokeshire

Alison Lea-Wilson, Halen Mon, Anglesey

Norma Barry, Consultant, Cardiff

In addition, I have asked Robin to undertake a further recruitment exercise to increase the breadth of coverage of the Board, and to encourage applications from under-represented groups. While the exercise is underway, the new Board will operate in shadow form, pending a full launch in the summer when it reaches full complement. The shadow Board’s inaugural meeting under Robin’s chairmanship will take place early next month. I have every confidence that once the Board is fully established it will enable us to deliver the vision of growing our industry in Wales by 30% by the year 2020, and I look forward to working with Robin and his colleagues to that end.

Robin Jones was appointed in July 2014, but it will be a full twelve months before the board is launched officially, so it seems there’s no hurry for wag there then.

Interesting that former Head Of Wag Food, Norma Barry is on the board, sorry another poor pun, as a consultant. I had a great deal of respect for Norma when she was in charge of food and was very sorry to see her leave that role. But if you search for Norma on LinkedIn you’ll find that Norma lists her appointment to this board two months ago………………………      

 

 
 

Food and Drink Wales Industry Board

03 Mar

There’s concern from quite a few of you, emailing and calling into our office and asking what is happening with the proposed Food and Drink Wales Industry Board. Well dear readers, if there was any constructive news about this board, I can assure I would have posted here on welshfoodbites and told our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers by email.

So unfortunately there’s no news at all, only a great deal of gossip. I last posted on this topic on 19th Dec and I’ve copied that post below so you can refresh your memories. The gist of the story to date is that people were asked to put themselves forward for this board, then have an interview, with the first meeting scheduled for the 8th December.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that not only was the 8th December meeting cancelled at the 11th hour, but no further meeting has since been arranged or held. As far as I’m aware, the Board, has still not been formed as we move into March.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you could never run a business like this  and at the risk of repeating myself once again,  communication, for me at least, is still the key. This industry will not exist without our Welsh food and drink producers still wag food insist that keeping them all in the dark is the best policy………………………………..

Of course my suggestions fall on stony ground and let’s face it wag food’s ground must be very stony – so we have no option but to wait and wait and wait. In fairness though, we must bear in mind that it must be a difficult job to put together a board to represent the food and drink industry! I was though told that over 40 people interviewed for this board. As one producer said last week, surely of those 40 people, there were a sufficient number whose faces ‘fitted’ with wag food, but seemingly not!!!

Whenever this board is elected – and when and if I’m told – I’ll let you know, but please don’t hold your breath!

 

 

19Dec

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…………………