Archive for May, 2015

Rural Development Approval For Scotland

28 May

Thought you’d be interested to see how Scotland fares from Europe.

Scottish programme agreed by Europe.
Scotland’s new rural development programme has been formally approved by Europe.
The programme will provide £1.3 billion of support for Scottish farming, food production, rural communities and the environment between now and the end of the decade.
The Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-2020 is co-funded by the Scottish Government and European Union and, as such, requires formal sign-off by the European Commission.
Confirming that agreement has now been given, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment Richard Lochhead said:
“The SRDP is crucial for Scottish farming, food production, rural communities and the environment, and I am pleased that it has finally been approved.
“This will enable to the Scottish Government to begin approving applications and making payments on those schemes we have already opened to mitigate, as far as possible, the impact of delays in the European sign-off process.
“It again highlights the need for ambitious and urgent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) from within Europe, and I continue to urge the UK Government to work with the European Commission to swiftly deliver a simpler, more streamlined CAP.”


Festival Funding – Or A Game Of Smoke & Mirrors?

21 May

I’ve been asked so often about food festival funding, so the easiest way to update you is to show you my Freedom Of Information question Number 9403 and the response.

ATISN 9403 Food Culture Grant Scheme – Food Festivals and Events 2015
Thank you for your request which I received on 22.04.15. You asked for:
1. I require a full list of all festivals that applied for Welsh Government funding for 2015 in both first and second tranches.
2. How much funding each festival has applied for and how much they received.
3. The festivals that applied for funding and were not successful. Also the amount they requested.
4. Date when second tranche will be awarded.
5. For second tranche of funding I require answers to questions 1, 2, and 3 above.

Please note that the Food Festival and Events grant process for 2015/16 is still currently ongoing. With that in mind, I set out the response to each of your questions below.
1 and 2
As the application process has not yet closed, the Welsh Government does not hold a full list of all festivals that applied for Welsh Government funding for 2015 (in both first and second tranches) or the amount they have applied for/received. At best we only hold partial information relating to the applications received to date and how much they applied for. I can confirm, however, that it is the Welsh Government’s intention to ultimately publish the outcome of the Food Culture Grant Scheme – Food Festivals and Events 2015 -2016 on the following page:
Because of this, the partial information we hold is exempt under section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI Act) – Information intended for future publication. Section 22 states:
(1)Information is exempt information if:
(a) the information is held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date (whether determined or not).
(b) the information was already held with a view to such publication at the time when the request for information was made, and.
(c) it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure until the date referred to in paragraph (a).
As set out above, (a) and (b) have been satisfied and as far as (c) goes I believe it’s wholly reasonable to withhold the information until its formal publication so as to allow the established timeline of the process to run its course.
Section 22 is also subject to the public interest test; that is, in order to withhold the information it has to be shown that the public interest in withholding the information outweighs that in releasing it. The Welsh Government acknowledges the general public interest in openness and transparency that the release would engender. On the other hand, however, the information is incomplete and inappropriate for publication at this stage as it could be misleading. Your own interest in the information notwithstanding, I do not believe there is sufficient public interest in this information to warrant release of the information prior to the official publication.
3 – as the process is still ongoing, decisions regarding the success or otherwise of the applicants has not yet been made. Consequently, this information is not held by Welsh Government.
4 – All awards under the second tranche of funding will be made by 31 July 2015.
5 – In relation to this question please see the response to questions 1, 2 and 3 above.

So the outcome is please don’t ask me about festival funding because you now know as much, or as little, as me. But there really is no need for you to worry, because the link wag have kindly sent through is a great idea, well it would be if us outsiders have the slightest clue of WHEN to look for it! Guess that’s another wag secret.

Under the old regime – later than I or you would like, wag food would send to me the full list of festivals they were funding. I then had to go back to them to ask which festivals had been turned down and how much each festival had asked for, but that was just another email for me to do. Now wag foods’ latest system only makes life more complicated and really does feel like a government game of smoke and mirrors. Money matters should be in the public’s interest because it is our money wag is spending. Seemingly Welsh food and drink producers are classed as public and they of course have no interest in food festival funding at all………………………

Welsh food and drink are supposed to be important to Wales, which means that Welsh food and drink producers are important to. Which then means our Welsh  food festivals are also important too. But not being able to get even part of the information I;ve asked me for, is to say the least annoying. Did Welsh food and drink producers agree that it was a good idea to run two tranches of food festival funding this year? Well I think not, because wag food can’t be bothered engaging with their producers, by and large. I really don’t know how many times I have to tell wag food that this is one of their many problems is a puzzle. Were Welsh food festival organisers asked it they wanted two tranches? Perhaps they were now wag have agreed to have a food festival committee, but is that committee talking to all food festivals that are chasing funding? I’m not sure they are. Obviously the big three festivals have got a voice to wag food, hence they are all getting more cash this year, but not sure it applies across the board and that is my worry. I’m sure the big three festivals will survive anyway, but what of our smaller festivals? If they don’t where does our growth come from?

The first tranche of food festival funding has been sent out by wag and has been published here on so why I can’t have questions answered about that first tranche makes no sense to me an their explanation doesn’t help at all, but that’s so typical of wag.

Wag, why help if you can hinder?


Food Funding For Scotland

14 May

I’m grateful for Scotland keeping me in their food loop. Let’s hope Wales learns lessons from them to help their Welsh food and drink producers. Here’s their latest food news:

Cabinet Secretary launches £70m support scheme.

A massive funding programme for food and drink businesses across Scotland has been launched by Cabinet Secretary for Food Richard Lochhead.

Mr Lochhead announced the new Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation (FPMC) grant scheme is now open for capital-related applications. The scheme will widen to non-capital and co-operation bids later in 2015.

The scheme will plough £70 million into food and drink processing in Scotland as part of the new Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-2020, which is expected to receive formal EU approval shortly.

Mr Lochhead said: “Scotland’s £13.9 billion food and drink growth sector has already rocketed since 2007. Turnover here has shot up 21 per cent compared to growth of 8.6 per cent across the rest of the UK, with Scotland’s massive success fuelled by the unwavering support of the Scottish Government and our agencies. Under the last Food grants scheme the Scottish Government supported in 172 projects between 2007 and 2013. Our £47 million investment levered in £114 million private sector funding and safeguarded or created about 8,500 jobs. I am delighted to be launching the new scheme in Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, and to have increased funding by 50 per cent which will enable us to invest even more in Scottish food and drink businesses.”

Also open for applications today is the Rural Development: Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF), the successor to the Skills Development Scheme, which is worth £12 million over the course of the new SRDP.


An Invitation To Great Taste Judging In Wales

12 May

A few weeks ago I received an invitation from the Guild Of Fine Food to judge at the Great Taste in Cardiff. The Great Taste Awards are respected world-wide and it is an award that Ian and I always recommend our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers to enter. I’ve always liked their star system. Basically because it was easy to understand and unlike Wales’ True Taste Awards, there isn’t just a first second and third in each category. I’ve never understood how this could be judged. GTA award one, two and three stars to any products that match their high standards. So for example, you could have just two, one star winners – ‘close to perfect’, five, two star winners – ‘faultless’ and seven three star winners – ‘wow you must taste this product’. Anyway I’m getting distracted, but that background is important, so back to my invitation which was to be a judge at these highly regarded top food awards. But I was puzzled asking – why me? But that’s putting it politely as to why on earth I would qualify to be part of the Welsh judging team and judge alongside some dedicated food experts. I never have, and never will, considered myself to be a food expert because quite simply I’m not. I’d always assumed, wrongly now it seems, that the GTA judges would be Michelin chefs and top food hall buyers. So I emailed asking for clarification and was told:

The Guild of Fine Food works really hard to build its judging panel full of chefs, food buyers, restaurateurs, food writers and critics, all of whom bring their own experience, knowledge and palate to provide constructive feedback for the producers. Everyone’s opinion counts around the judging table and judging teams are purposely grouped based on their diverse knowledge and experience, which is why producers value the feedback and shows what a rigorous process it is to awarding those Great Taste stars.

After promoting GTA for so many yeas, I now feel a little disillusioned that the judges aren’t all those with professional palates. So I’ve declined their kind invitation and just hope I’ve made the right decision. Actually, as a foodie journalist I’d think I’d have a much better time and learn much, much more if I could attend the judging but as a fly on the wall. But as it is food being judged, I guess I’d get quickly swatted!!!!!

Great Taste have accepted my decision, but hope Igll do it next year just not sure how anything will change from my side by next year. Anyway GTA have said they’ll send me their winners through, I guess with the hope that I’ll cover it for them. But as regular readers will know, if GTA are not advertising and supporting us, then that will not happen. I’ve still not a VAT number not a charity number!
So good luck to all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, showing off the best of Welsh food and drink,  who are entering and don’t forget to let me know your experience and how you got on…………….


Food Festival – Approval Of First Applications

06 May

I asked the Welsh Press Office again yesterday for the first list of food festival funding and have been told – again- that I’ll get a Press Release when they issue one. But as I keep explaining, it’s the facts and figures I’m interested in, much more than Welsh Assembly spin in a press release.
So follows is the first list I’ve received:
Tier 1
Caerphilly Food Festival 09 May £5,000
Wrexham Food & Drink Festival 16-17 May £5,000
Welsh Perry & Cider Festival 22-25 May £5,000
Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival 24-25 May £5,000
Hay Summer Food Festival 27 June £1,701
Cardigan River & Food Festival 08 August £4,995
Menai Seafood Festival 29 August £4,634
Narberth Food Festival 25-27 September £5,000
Mumbles Oyster & Seafood 02-04 Oct £5,000
Newport Food Festival 03 October £5,000
Llangollen Food Festival 17-18 Oct £5,000
Hay Winter Food Festival 27 November £1,701
Portmerion Food Festival 5-6 December £5,000
Abergavenny Xmas Food Festival 13 December £5,000
Tier 2
Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival 05 July £9,335

All I can say at this stage is that if anyone knows how to make one of their own systems more complicated, it has to be wag and wag food. Welsh food and drink is supposed to be high on wag’s agenda but if that’s the case why is this system now so comlicated? I’m interested in knowing how much these festivals applied for but as I’ve not been able to get the facts and figures I require, I’ve sent in a Freedom Of Information question. My response is due 20th May and after that the reply will be posted on welshfoodbites. I do though wonder if getting £1,701 in funding is worth all the paperwork and box ticking wag food require, but seemingly it is for some festivals.