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Archive for July, 2016

BOW Winners At Dairy Exhibitor Awards AT RWAS

21 Jul

Good news in that a number of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers were scooping the honours in the Dairy Produce Awards held at the Royal Welsh Show this week. Well done guys. Here they are just some of them as there were such a lot:

The Aeron Valley Cheese Masters Perpetual Trophy Awarded for Supreme Champion Cheese.

Caws Cenarth

The Eurwen Richards Award For The Best Produced Cheese.

Caws Cenarth

The Marks & Spencer Perpetual Trophy for The Best Regional Cheese.

Caws Cenarth

Special RWAS Prize Card & Rosette Awarded To President’s Preference In Cheese Section.

Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

The Caws Cenarth Perpetual Trophy Awarded For Excellence In Cheese Making HNOP.

Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Farmhouse Classes.

Traditional Welsh Caerphilly.

Place   Exhibitor     

1.  Caws Cenarth

2.  Caws Teifi Cheese

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Farmhouse Hard Pressed Cheese (excluding Caerphilly).

  1. Caws Teifi Cheese

2. Caws Teifi Cheese

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Farmhouse Smoked Cheese, Hard Pressed.

  1. Caws Teifi Cheese
  2. Caws Cenarth
  3. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Tonnes/Week, Any Variety, Cow’s Milk.

  1. Caws Cenarth
  2. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company
  3. Caws Teifi Cheese

Cheese, Any Variety, Not Cow’s Milk.

  1. Caws Cenarth
  2. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Cheese, Any Variety Not To Exceed 0.5kg, Any Milk.

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company
  2. Caws Cenarth
  3. Caws Teifi Cheese

New Cheese Not Previously Exhibited At RWAS, Any Variety, Any Milk.

  1. Caws Cenarth
  2. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Hard Cheese, Savoury Additive.

  1. Caws Teifi Cheese
  2. South Caernarfon Creameries
  3. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Hard Cheese, Sweet Additive.

  1. Caws Cenarth

Any Other Named Variety.

  1. Caws Cenarth

Soft Cheese, Any Variety, Natural (No Additives).

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company
  2. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Organic Cheese, Hard Variety.

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company

Organic Cheese, Soft Variety.

  1. Carmarthenshire Cheese Company
  2. Caws Cenarth

One 250g Pack Of Salted Farm Butter, Any Milk.

  1. Bodnant Welsh Food

 

Best Of Welsh & Borders producers were awarded prizes in the yogurt classes prizes including: Village Dairy, Hufenfa’r Castell and Trioni Ltd.

 
 

Food Festival Funding

20 Jul

I’ve totally lost count of the number of emails I’ve sent to the press office asking for a list of food festivals that wag have funded for 2016. It has got more and more time consuming over the years to get this information from wag food. But why you might ask, as I obviously do? Well I haven’t a clue, it’s something I struggle to understand. Wag food have an obligation to provide this information as they are spending public money, but they have no obligation at all to be helpful and professional about doing so. Obviously I can only relate my experience, but I can say that it is annoying and disappointing.

Apparently this year the most festivals can ask for – and sometimes get – a maximum of £5k from this budget. But now I understand that festivals can ‘officially’ apply for funding from other wag budgets. Something which in the past wag food has said never happened, as festivals could only go for one source of government funding. Regular readers will recall my trying to find out which festivals got funding from the Major Events Unit, more information which was touch to getand ended up with my having to do a Freedom Of Information question. Festivals can now apply for funding in full of for ‘selected’ areas such as waste management.

The first batch of festivals being funded as of 20th June wag are:

Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival, Cowbridge (29/30 May)

Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival, Newcastle Emlyn (11 June)

Hay Summer Food Festival, Hay-on-Wye (1 July)

Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, Aberaeron (3 July)

Cardigan River & Food Festival, Cardigan (6 August)

Narberth Food Festival, Narberth (23-25 September)

Llangollen Food Festival, Llangollen (15/16 October)

Hay Winter Food Festival, Hay-on-Wye (26 November)

Christmas Food & Drink Fair, Abergavenny (11 December)

This is the first funding tranche as the official closing date for festival funding is 14th July. Festivals should then know two weeks later, around the 28th if they have been successful or not. As to when I’ll get details of this second tranche, I wouldn’t even hazard a guess.

Each year I say things can’t get worse getting information from wag food, but I’m constantly proved wrong, so thanks wag for a lack of communication, yes even to the press. All I want to know is which festivals wag food are funding, how much they are getting, which festivals have applied and not been successful. I like to know this information and I say early because we often put information on welshcountry.co.uk and welshfoodbites.co.uk. As a company we always also send this food festival information to all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, firstly because wag food don’t do so and secondly because our producers are interested to know who gets what, which is fair enough as it’s our money. So I get this list last week of nine festivals that have been funded and four of them have already been and gone!

Food festival funding was a question I got asked about on Monday at the RWAS, but I could only relay the info. I’d got however did suggest producers could ask wag food staff. Of course I was being silly as it seems like me our producers have little idea who wag food staff are.

Wag food must have their reasons for changing the food festival funding again, but they are reasons they are not sharing, purely because they don’t have too, rather than no-one would be interested. But to only get the first list of festivals mid July is not a great deal of use. Yes of course it makes me cross when Welsh Country magazine set out its stall – sorry poor pun – to promote Welsh food and drink. I don’t know which festivals applied and got rejected. I still don’t know how much the likes of Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy festivals have been funded this year either. Perhaps wag food think I haven’t a right to know this information, but if they don’t tell me then I’ll have to send through another Freedom Of Information question. But why should this be necessary?

I was further insulted by wag food last week when they didn’t even send me the press release relating to food festival funding, although it was sent to other Welsh media! This is despite their promise that Welsh Country magazine would receive all food and drink press releases. Welsh Country magazine, the pan Wales magazine that has supported/promoted Welsh food and drink for over a decade is left off wag food’s press mailing list, who would believe that?

Do you think I should take this latest insult personally………………….?

 
 

Another Waste Of My Time

08 Jul

As Mike from Cwm Deri Vineyard was prepared to share his eviction from Narbeth – for update see post dated 17th June as Local Producers Don’t Get Priority At Funded Festivals – I thought you’d be interested in an update.

Both Mike and I have contacted one of his AMs and she is going to take his complaint forward, but was frnak from the outset, saying there was no likelihood that anything will chang efor Mike this year., which I understand. So my next plan of action was to ‘talk’ to wag food, although in theory I’m supposed to go through the press office. But I thought it worth a try and crafted a detailed email. I explained the back story on Mike and his long standing supprt for Narbeth. I queried the Narbeth committee’s reason to ‘vary the visitor experience’ as their justification for throwing Mike out and I suggested that variety could be achieved by the music, the street and childre’s entertainment that the event uses each year.

I still cannot accept that punters if they ARE surveyed, are saying although this is a yearly food festival, I still want the food stalls changed each year. If you bought some delicous cheese, jam, beer or wne last year wouldn’t you want to buy it again? Narbeth’s reasoning doesn’t make sense to me, but seemingly does to wag food. But in the interest of variety, Narbeth style, do you think the Devon fishcake man will be thrown out too?

I maintain as I have constantly done so, that wag food are not backing local professional producers, but instead is encouraging food miles. Which goes completely against the Welsh Government’s Policy. Wag food create their own Welsh food festival criteria, so perhaps ensuring the number of Welsh food and drink producers be raised to 90% and priority given first to local ‘professional’ producers. This would eliminate silly situations like this.

Narbeth cannot state that they are championing local producers when they have just thrown out Pembrokeshire’s local wine producer. 

The objectives of the Food Festival Grant scheme 2016 published by wag food state:

  • 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.

I am sure some of you will have seen a company called Wavehill doing some food festival evaluations, which of course we/wag food have paid for. Here’s a snippet from one of their reports:

Wavehill 14/15 food festival evaluation

  • An average (mean) rating of 3.6 out of 4 illustrates a high degree of enjoyment across the surveyed festivals. Furthermore, almost two thirds of attendees felt certain their awareness of local food and produce had increased as a result of their attendance at the festival that day, whilst a further 27% felt it probably had.
  • In addition, the FD was keen on evaluating the following elements:
  • Would the festival continue without FD support (to what extent is the festival moving towards a model that is self-sustaining)?
  • Is the event considered to be an exemplar of the Promotion of Welsh Produce to visitors in and outside Wales?
  • The quality of the event.
  • The involvement of Food Tourism Providers – are they Championing Local Producers? 
  • The number of Food & Drink Producers, who these producers are, in addition to the numbers of Welsh Producers.

Confirmation that the festival organisers had used the Welsh Government financial contribution in the manner outlined in their application.

Then I can go back to the former Minister of Rural Affairs, Elin Jones:

From Food for Wales – Food from Wales 2010 – 2020

Food is a basic necessity for us all, as well as a key industry. It creates vital employment and is critical to our security and wellbeing. It is a source of robust health and a celebration of culture. Wales is rapidly gaining a credible, national and international reputation for its innovative food and drink and hospitality sector. Thanks to our producers, our unique geography, climate and farming practices, Wales can boast of a range of high quality foods, from our iconic Welsh lamb and beef to cheeses and Welsh seafood. The food and drink industry is important to the economy and the people of Wales; the UK Agri-Food sector contributes up to 7% (£79.4 billion) of UK Gross Value Added. Through careful informed planning and working together it is vital that we increase this and I have every confidence that we can build on our success achieved so far to ensure a thriving, developing industry in the years to come.

There are complex and cross cutting issues around food, such as making sure everyone continues to have access to the food they need, which requires an economically and environmentally sustainable industry capable of withstanding global pressures and meeting the challenges that climate change presents us with. Food issues are key to us all as consumers, throughout the industry, and as a Government. Reconnecting with food and how it’s produced is a fundamental message that reaches out to all those engaged in the future of food supply in Wales. This Strategy sets the overall direction – it cannot deal in detail with every area of policy it will affect. As Minister for Rural Affairs for the Welsh Assembly Government I am keen for Wales to do the best we can to ensure a sustainable food system which meets our economic and ecological priorities. To achieve this we need to reach out to

all parts of Government to ensure we work together to share agendas and make better connections.

The food chain accounts for 31% of greenhouse gas emissions within the EU (17% of total Welsh emissions), and we all have a part to play in addressing these issues. Working together, we can look to readdress these imbalances by looking to source food locally, eat seasonally, and reduce food miles; consequently reducing carbon emissions. We also need to look to reduce our food packaging which contributes to waste and landfill and increase the creation of bio diverse habitats for wildlife.

From the same source:

This Strategy sets the overall direction – it cannot deal in detail with every area of policy it will affect. This Strategy will however act as a common framework to inform our existing food action plans, such as those for horticulture, red meat, organic, dairy, local sourcing, food tourism, and fisheries, and act as a basis for a delivery plan to implement our aspirations. This overarching Strategy is for ten years, but delivery plans will be set over shorter timescales.

From the same source:

Principles

  • Local and locality branded foods from Wales should be developed and promoted to markets in Wales, the rest of the UK, and more widely;

From the same source:

  1. Increasing knowledge about food in our communities will help to develop a stronger

food culture, which can stimulate the demand for good quality and locally produced food.

From the same source:

  1. The general principles of a low carbon diet are eating local, seasonal food, wasting less food, minimising energy used in cooking and storage, taking fewer trips to the supermarket, and ensuring that a balance is achieved on carbon intensive food such as red meat and dairy products.

From the same source:

Food and Tourism

Tourism provides an excellent example of an area of Government influence in which food can play a key role. Good quality food and food service can enhance the reputation of Wales as a leading sustainable

tourism destination. Provision of Welsh food at tourist outlets can promote economic development and boost environmental and cultural tourism. This approach can make for a tourist experience that is highly valued, encouraging the return of visitors to Wales.

The Food Tourism Action Plan encourages the use of food as a tool to increase the attractions of Welsh rural areas illustrated by the achievements of Monmouthshire and Pembrokeshire, which were the first two winners of the Food Destination Awards under the True Taste scheme.

In addition, research by the Mid Wales Food and Land Trust in 2006 concluded that, of the visitors surveyed, 82% stated that provision of good locally produced food was a very important part of their holiday experience and they would pay up to 13% extra to experience it.

From the same source:

(From Food Tourism Action Plan, Welsh Assembly Government, 2009)

CHAPTER 7

Summary of the aspirations and direction of the Food Strategy

1.Local and locality branded foods from Wales will be developed and promoted to markets in Wales, the rest of the UK, and the world.

Well the first surprise was I did get a response some two weeks later, the second surprise, well no it wasn’t a surprise, I got no help at all. Despite a few emails going to and fro, I was told my comments will be discussed with Food Festival Organisers when they meet with wag food. So that was a surprise as I’d no idea food festival organisers were still having meetings, but in fairness why should wag food keep me in the loop on that one?

Then I was told to take my individual points to directly to Narberth Food Festival. Well that was useful – not!!! Why is Narbeth going to answer my questions when wag food, the Paymaster, can’t be bothered taking up Mike’s case on the grounds that each festival is responsible for organising their own exhibiting area and food producers. This to me is a cop out, if wag food are paying, then shouldn’t food festivals be adhering to wag food’s policies? Does this not run along joined up government writing?

Wag food, the department that we pay for to promote Welsh food and drink, gives us Food & Drink policies, stating what must happen to promote food and drink in Wales, but then does little to fulfil them. These policies are only wag words, without any action. I’m stunned that wag food are telling me to talk to Narbeth.

Mike believes his feedback form might be to blame for his eviction, as he stated it should be professional producers at a fesitival and not a stand buying from the Cash & Carry and re-packaging stock. When I asked wag food if they saw the feedback forms they said no – but each event has to maintian feedback as part of their Quality-Systems and to maintain or better their producer /visitor experience in the future. So this proves that if organisers cannot accept constructive criticism, then traders must only put pleasant comments on feedback forms to ensure they get an invite back. So someone please explain how will feedback forms maintain or better their producer/visitor experience? Well obviously they’ll be another waste of time but again another area which wag food have ignored. So the outcome is that Mike has had to find another event, which is not only more expensive to trade at, it’s not local to him so his food miles are massively increased, plus he’s to pay for a hotel too!

To wrap up this post, I wasn’t sure that wag food would help, so it’s as I stated at the start, this is just another waste of my time talking to or at a food department which will not listen. Of course I’m disappointed/furious with the outcome of this scenario. But on a rare positive note from this post, perhaps I should just be grateful to have got two responses, such as they were, more like whitewash to me!

You couldn’t make this up, you really couldn’t…………………………….

 

 
 

Farmers Are Perhaps Not Best To Run A Business?

06 Jul

Panic not, these are not my words, but words from the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths. Follows is a press release from the Welsh Conservative Party, published in full.

I think farmers are perhaps not the best people to run a business” says Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs

Welsh Conservatives are calling for the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs to make an immediate apology following comments made in a plenary debate where she said that farmers are “not the best people to run a business.”

The comments, made by Labour AM Lesley Griffiths on the 22nd of June, are likely to cause a great deal of offence to Wales’ farming community which has 14,000 registered businesses in Wales and generates a £5.7bn annual turnover. They were made in response to a question about the Welsh Government’s Rural Development Plan, which now two years into being has produced limited results, despite promises from the previous Minister for Farming and Food that the plan would have a “transformational” effect on the rural economy.

Speaking inside the Senedd Chamber, Lesley Griffiths AM said:

“We do need to see much more of a transformational change, and we need to do that in partnership with the farmers. I also think we need to look at how we can help them with the sustainability and the resilience of their businesses, and to look at the business side of it, because I think farmers, certainly in my very early discussions with them, are perhaps not the best people to run a business. They haven’t that kind of business perspective…” (22 June 2016)

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies said:
“I call on the Cabinet Secretary to make an immediate apology to the farming community of Wales, who will no doubt be taken aback by her comments. Farmers in Wales contribute billions to the Welsh economy – they directly employ 48,000 people and are among the most industrious and entrepreneurial members of our business community. To say that ‘farmers are not the best people to run a business’ is not only highly offensive but calls into question whether she is in fact the right person to take this brief forward. It simply betrays her ignorance of this vital artery of the Welsh economy. I would suggest that the Cabinet Secretary takes some time to reflect on her ill-considered comments and would invite her to meet with a number of my friends who run highly successful farming businesses.”

Well I wonder if Ms Griffiths was ever tried farming for a living? My guess is not. Just as I doubt if she’s tried to run a food or drink business either. It’s easy to stand back and criticise, but when you have no idea at all how tough and stressful a life it is working off the land and producing food and drink, words are easy but in this case tactless and rude. A life often spent battling the elements, battling red tape and battling a government that doesn’t seem to care and certainly doesn’t undestand the problems that are faced on a daily basis by farmers and producers is not helpful.

According to wag’s website Lesley Griffiths, who all of you will be aware is now Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, lists her political interests to include health, economic development, housing and children’s issues. So is she the best person to take on the environment and rural affairs, which of course includes Welsh food and drink? Well not to me it doesn’t, but those choices are not ours, that’s down to the First Minister Carwyn Jones. You might be wondering why Ms. Griffiths is called a Cabinet Secretary not a Minister. Well as I understand it, this change is to follow Westminster and makes me think this is a lot to do with a more powerful title and therefore a bigger salary…………………

Well those are the views of Ms Griffiths, farmers not fit to run a business, so my question to this government is, have we got politicians fit to run our country?

Answers on a postcard please, no sorry, being flip, email me or leave your comments on here.