Archive for May, 2016

Is Food & Drink Still Important To Wales?

20 May

I’m asking this question after looking at the Welsh First Minister’s new cabinet. We have some Minister posts that seem to be upgraded to  Cabinet Secretaries and these include: Economy, Health, Finance, Education, Communities and Children, and Environment and Rural Affairs. Then there are Junior Ministers for Skills & Science, Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language and Social Services and Public Health.

The Welsh Government state that they have an Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014-2020 which has an ambitions target to achieve growth for the sector of 30% by 2020. In light of these targets research is being undertaken to investigate how individual sub sectors which contribute to the wider food and drink economy are performing. From this an industry baseline will be developed and used to monitor trends and track changes in the sectors going forward. This will yield a greater understanding of how specific sub sectors in the Welsh food and drink sector are growing and performing.  

Some people believe the Government’s statement …..but many wonder how wag will achieve it. It appears that Welsh food and drink isn’t worthy of its own Minister, let alone a Cabinet Secretary but once again Welsh food and drink is still being lumped alongside agriculture & fisheries in Environment and Rural Affairs. To me it seems a huge portfolio to encompass food and drink as well and as always the danger is food and drink will not get the attention it deserves which makes the target of 30% growth a tough target to get.
The new government is as follows:

Carwyn Jones – First Minister
Ken Skates – Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
Vaughan Gething – Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
Mark Drakeford – Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
Kirsty Williams – Cabinet Secretary for Education
Lesley Griffiths – Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Carl Sargeant – Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
Jane Hutt – Leader of the House and Chief Whip
Julie James – Minister for Skills and Science
Alun Davies – Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language
Rebecca Evans – Minister for Social Services and Public Health

Yesterday, Ian and I met some tourists that live in the home counties. The couple are regular visitors to Wales and also to Cornwall where their son and his family live. Their comments where interesting as they were complaining they couldn’t get fresh fish & seafood in Wales. They can get fresh fish & seafood in Cornwall so easily, and of course there are there endless fish restaurants, but Wales is failing in this are. Doing our PR for Welsh food and drink we gave them a copy of Welsh Country magazine and highlighted a couple of excellent companies: Cardigan Bay Fish & Solva Seafood. But as Wales is surrounded by the sea on 3 sides, why can’t Wales have fresh seafood available in every seaside town?

Obviously I can’t blame wag for everything, but this is their problem and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get fresh Welsh caught fish & seafood. This glaring problem will not help wag to achieve their target growth of 30%.


Is There Really A £5k Grant Limit for Food Festivals?

11 May

I’m still trying to find out which food festivals are getting funding. As I asked the Welsh Government Press Office again yesterday, they told me that this year there is just one Tier of support  withing the Food Festivals Grant Scheme instead of three Tiers as was used last year.  The Press Office also said that there is a maximum grant of £5k per festival and apparently the total budget for this year is £160k. I’m told that details of the scheme for this year were sent directly to producers, including those who have previously had funding.

For regular readers I’m sure it goes without saying that yet again I’m perplexed with how wag food are allocating food festivals funding this year. If there’s £160k in this budget, when last year, according to my figures the budget was £137,571. So not only has this budget not been cut again this year, it’s actually been increased. In these tight times, how does a food budget get an increase? My other worry is being told that all festivals can apply for a maximum of £5k. That again to me makes no sense when last year that’s the amount Abergavenny Xmas Fair got, whilst the main Abergavenny festival was awarded £14,350 and Conwy food festival were awarded £15,255. Both Abergavenny and Conwy were running under Tier 3.  But with only Tier 1 running this year I can’t imagine these two festivals being very happy. Are there other sources open to these two larger festivals for funding, apart from the Major Events Unit   Budget?  So with an increased budget of £160k and a maximum of £5k, just want to know how many ifestivals are being run across Wales this year. Will some of this budget be spent elsewhere? If that’s the case where’s that likely to be?

Questions, questions, questions……if only a civil servant would give me the answers. I was at a food event last weekend and was asked numerous times what was wag food doing about food festivals. The message hasn’t got through to all our producers that I do not have a hot line to wag food, I actually wish my line to the Press Office was hotter than it is, but there we are! So my response is now a cheeky – how would I know? I’m simply a journalist and editor for Welsh Country magazine, a magazine that’s so supportive of Welsh food and drink, why would wag food think that telling me what’s happening would be a good idea? It’s obvious to me that it would be a good iddea but obviously in their world it isn’t. Much better that I keep pestering the Press Office so they can ask wag food and then come back to me, so I can go back to them. In my view it’s a waste of time but then I’m not a civil servant guaranteed getting paid each month.

This is a sorry situation we are in and yes, I still maintain communication is the key, it just looks like wag food has lost that key, if they ever had it………………………..

I shall of course post any further updates, but suggest no breath holding!