Archive for September, 2015

Welsh Food Festival Calendar

29 Sep

The question is why hasn’t Wales got a calendar for festivals they are ‘willing’ to fund?
I was told, not directly of course, that a Food Festival Committee/s was being formed, but as there is still no festival calendar, you might well wonder if this committee did get of the ground. Well I think it has and my reasoning on this is as follows: If I can take you back to last year when all food festivals were told the maximum amount they could apply for was £10k as wag keep saying that food festivals need to be self-funding. £10k maximum was a bitter pill for some of the big festivals to swallow and I was told, though this has not been officially confirmed either, that Abergavenny festival actually had a meeting with the then Food Minister. I’ve also been told, though yet again, not officially, that Abergavenny Chair one of the Regional Committees.

So roll onto this year and low and behold the maximum festivals can apply for:
Tier 1 – Funding of up to £5,000 at 50% of eligible costs.
Tier 2 – Funding of up to £10,000 at 50% of eligible costs.
Tier 3 – Funding of up to £25,000 at 50% of eligible costs.

Perhaps it’s only me that’s confused. Maybe festivals are only ‘told’ by wag food that they have to attempt to be self-funding. But then last year Abergavenny did refuse me press tickets on the grounds that: This year we have undertaken a review of all the complimentary tickets we give out to various people and organisations. We have done this as part of our continued efforts to become financially self-sustainable. For this reason we are not able to offer you complimentary press passes this year.

Other press got complimentary tickets so that doesn’t ring true does it?

So mixed messages here, or maybe it’s just me not understanding civil service thinking. Anyway back to a festival calendar and to a topic that I’ve raised before but sadly no-one in power, i.e. wag food, accepts this is a problem. Which is proof, if proof were still needed, that wag food have no conception of the problems producers face. But this issue could easily be solved and without costing wag food any extra cash, just create a workable food festival calendar of festivals that they are funding.

This Saturday there are festivals at Brecon, Neath and Newport and all three funded by wag. Brecon are getting a pathetic £4k, but Neath and Newport don’t fare much better with £5k. I’m guessing all three asked for more, but wag said no. So we’ve three popular festivals, reasonably close to each other, all running the same weekend. My question is the same as it’s always been, why, oh why is this still happening? Micro producers have no choice but to select one festival, although medium – larger producers can often get a second team out. Obviously wag has nothing to do with festivals that aren’t funded, but that’s not the issue here, I’m talking purely funded festivals and I despair why wag can’t exert some control over the festivals that they do fund.

In the past I have challenged wag food about a festival calendar and was told that dates were nothing to do with wag, a comment I find ridiculous. Festivals are for producers, locals and visitors, but first and foremost festivals are for our Welsh food and drink producers, otherwise without their support you cannot hold a food festival. If wag food say to these three festivals they can apply for funding, but will not be offered funding unless dates are changed, that would solve this problem. It’s an obvious that producers need to be able to attend as many festivals as possible, but wag food are prepared to stand back and ignore this issue.  Brecon has been running on the same weekend for decades, so in my view that weekend is theirs and I’m just disappointed that Neath and Newport also decided to set up on the same weekend as Brecon. If these other two festivals were held in the norht there wouldn’t be the same problem, but so close – it is a nuisance. Neath have developed a very successful festival that now runs over 3 days. The Neath team have been clever and do a great job, but that only serves to further annoy the producers who are loyal to Brecon. Newport started after Neath, but again went for the same weekend. Newport is not one I’ve  attended, but can’t anyone else understand how annoyed producers are that some of them are missing out on Neath and Newport due to this clash of dates.

Sorting out a food festival calendar is hardly a tough job, but sadly it’s prove too tought for wag or perhaps they are simpy not interested enough to help producers on this one. I’m very disappointed that the Food Festival Committees have not tackled this problem, but clever them, they’ve at least got wag to pushed the funding up to a maximum of £25k this year for the larger events.

I do though wonder how many years I’ll be ranting on about the lack of a food festival calendar………


Welsh Farmers Unhappy With UK Meat Levy System

18 Sep

I’ve just been updated about a recent meeting in Welshpool covering how farmers in Wales are being treated unfairly by the meat levy system. Farmers are angry over the unjust set-up which sees Welsh money drain across the border to England. Amongst people attending the meeting were: FUW president Glyn Roberts,  FUW Montgomeryshire chairman Mark Williams, Dunbia’s Wyn Williams and Peter Morris of 2 Sisters.

This unfairness by the meat levy system is affecting Wales’ the ability to promote Welsh Lamb in the face of stiff competition. FUW leaders discussed low lamb prices amongst other issues, when they met with meat processor bosses. FUW said their concern focused on the iniquity of the meat levy system in which a large proportion of Welsh levy payments end up across the border in England.

The current system means that levies collected from farmers and processors stay in the country in which animals are slaughtered rather than where they are reared. The FUW has been lobbying for a decade for fairer levy distribution but little progress has been made. Wales suffers hugely as slaughter capacity has fallen and so has the levy money received by Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), the Welsh red meat promotion body. Following the closure of the Vion plant in Gaerwen in 2013 it is estimated HCC’s red meat levy funding drop by around £500,000. HCC’s levy funding does not come close to reflecting the number of animals born and raised in Wales and HCC believes that fall in levy revenue has affected its ability to market Welsh lamb products.

There was also annoyance at the slow progress with getting Welsh produce into the US market. It is obvious that there are many other factors affecting the lamb price that are beyond the industry’s control, such as the value of sterling, but there are others that must be improved such as better meat product development which was much needed, the supply chain had to address the imbalance in demand for different cuts and also to see changes to the regulations on carcass splitting which is scientifically unjustified and severely undermines the prices farmers receive.

The Welshpool meeting appears to have been interesting one, but the ongoing frustration of our farmers cannot, and shouldn’t be underestimated. In my view it’s more than time that the powers-that-be get their act together and support our Welsh farmers whilst we still have a farming industry.

Welsh food and drink is supposed to be important to our economy isn’t it?