Smaller Welsh Food & Drink Companies To Benefit From €1.8million Boost To Increase Global Competitiveness

25 Jul

Smaller Welsh Food & Drink Companies To Benefit From €1.8million Boost To Increase Global Competitiveness, now if some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW, do not take advantage of this €1.8million programme – I shall be very cross………………………………………..

This press release came through this morning from the Welsh Government and is published below in full:

Small and medium food and drink businesses in Wales are set to benefit from a €1.8million programme to help increase their competitiveness in global markets.

Wales will become the latest nation to join the Atlantic Area Export Project, which supports businesses from across the Atlantic Arc to work together to overcome the barriers smaller businesses in the sector face when they try to expand into international markets. Currently over 72% of food and drink exported directly from Wales goes to the EU. This figure is much higher for Welsh red meat, where 90% of exports go to the EU. The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, will make the announcement during the second day of the Royal Welsh Show.

The Cabinet Secretary said:

“We’ve seen Welsh companies become global brands, such is the high quality of food and drink we produce in Wales. We want to help more small companies break into new markets. Today’s announcement will help them to do this – just one breakthrough can be a real game changer, providing a significant boost to our rural economy.”

Exports of food and drink have grown by almost 20% in the past year.

The latest boost to smaller businesses follows the Welsh Government’s announcement in March that £21million would be made available through Project HELIX to help smaller food manufacturers in Wales increase production and reduce waste. Since then the project has supported 162 small and medium sized businesses and safeguarded 120 jobs. The Welsh Government has committed to investing £2.4million over the next two years to expand the food and drink industry’s export market and raise Wales’ global profile. As part of this commitment, the Cabinet Secretary will today announce the successful BlasCymru/TasteWales event, which brought global food and drink industry members to Wales to connect with Welsh food and drink producers earlier this year, will be returning in 2019.

The announcements come as initial findings from research undertaken by the Welsh Government on UK consumers views on the value of Welsh products, found 8/10 shoppers prefer to buy Welsh products and 75% think Welsh food equals excellent quality.

The Cabinet Secretary added:

“We will continue to push the UK Government to prioritise full and unfettered access to the single market and avoid any new barriers which impede Welsh food and drink businesses from operating effectively. There are many opportunities and we are supporting our food and drink sector to be in a position to make the very best of these.”

Now some good news to update you on, I actually received an invite from wag food to attend the Minister’s speech today and also offered tickets to the show ground!! That was a welcomed invite, even though as accredited press for RWAS I was officially allowed to turn up anyway. Well with her busy schedule, the Minister was obviously not going to have a chat with me after her speech and more importantly, neither was she likely to book 12 pages of advertising for our next six issues, so I just couldn’t justify another day at the RWAS to listen to a brief speech. However any help for Welsh food and drink producers, provided there is lots of guidance and back-up too, is welcome news for me.

I’m not sure why Taste Wales will run next in 2109 and not next year, but it does seem to have been effective.

Now my final update is to say wag food also invited Ian and I to the Business Lounge above the Food Hall. Well not having been in this hallowed area for many years – and even then we weren’t officially invited, but press passes can still get you into many places – and the improvement in that area was amazing. You are all well aware how hard Ian and I and the team here work to promote Welsh food and drink and our BOW producers, I’m constantly saying we produce the best food and drink and that display was proof indeed. It was a magnificent showcase. We’d many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW, in there and that was so good to see. Buster of Breconshire Brewing needs a pat on the back too as the number and quality of drinks shown was first class.

With wag food having invited so many buyers, I think in excess of 200, but if only a proportion actually attend, it is still much needed and a way forward. Hopefully serious discussions will ensue and then orders will come through thick and fast. If producers what to go the supermarket route then this wag food help is to be welcomed, it really was an impressive showcase. I asked wag food if the likes of Aldi and Lidl had been invited and they had, so it would be good to see more Welsh products in these two supermarkets in particular as they are so strong across Wales. Deli chains had also been invited, which I was also pleased to hear as I know that’s an area many or our BOW are interested in, but not always finding it easy to crack.

Welsh Country magazine for some reason known only to wag food, has not always found ‘dealing’ or working with them easy and it’s certainly not been trouble-free. This has been more than frustrating. Our agenda, apart from gaining advertising so we can continue publishing, is to support not only our BOW producers but to support Welsh food and drink. Welsh Country is the only pan Wales magazine and the only Welsh title that is promoting Welsh food and drink so to me at least, working together should be an obvious.

This press release was sent around of BOW producers this morning and I hope wag food are pleased I’m helping them with their publicity for free! But truthfully, we promise to keep our BOW producers in the loop – if we are kept in the loop………………

But I’m sure you’ll agree that this is, for once, is a positive post and we are hopeful that life will become easier for our Best Of Welsh and Borders producers, whatever level they are trading at.


Ceridwen Centre & Crwst – Finalists In The CLA Rural Business Awards

19 Jul

Ceridwen Centre & Crwst are two of only three Welsh finalists in the Country Landowners Association, CLA Rural Business Awards together with ET Landnet.

I had to share this with you, I actually think in a way it comes under the blow-your-own-trumpet-banner, but so what? Of the three of the Welsh businesses named as finalists, in the Rural Business Awards, Ceridwen Centre and Crwst are advertisers with Welsh Country magazine. But here’s a further gloat, we sent the press release from CLA about the Rural Business Awards to our advertisers and that prompted these two superb businesses to apply, so please excuse my crowing, but just so pleased for them. I passed the press release through to wag, but not sure if wag did anything with it or not, but chuffed we did!

Here’s the CLA press release about the three Welsh winners:

A quirky wedding venue, a micro bakery and a rights of way consultancy from Wales are all in with a chance of being named three of Britain’s best countryside-based firms after making the final stages of the Rural Business Awards 2017. The Ceridwen Centre in the Teifi Valley, ET Landnet of Llanelli and Crwst of Pembrokeshire have been named one of five nationwide finalists in separate categories of the awards. Ceridwen is a finalist for Best Rural Tourism Business; ET Landnet has been named for Best Rural Professional Services Business and Crwst is up for Rural Entrepreneur of the Year. The awards, run in partnership with the CLA and Amazon, are the only UK-wide programme dedicated to showcasing the success of rural businesses. Now in their third year and with nearly three times as many entries as in 2016, they are split into 13 sections with one category winner also crowned overall Champion of Champions on the night.

“Congratulations to the Ceridwen Centre, Crwst and ET Landnet for being shortlisted for the awards this year,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “It was great to see a record number of fascinating and inspirational entries this year, all of which are a true testament to the creativity and talent of rural businesses. I wish the Ceridwen Centre, Crwst, ET Landnet and all the shortlisted companies the very best of luck for the awards night.”

Ceridwen Centre Ltd is an eco-minded holiday, course, retreat, event and wedding venue on a 40-acre organic farm in the Teifi Valley in West Wales. With the potential to accommodate more than 60 people in glamping accommodation including yurts, a Romany caravan, a double decker bus, eco pod, upcycled static caravans as well as converted traditional stone buildings, Ceridwen is licensed for wedding ceremonies in The Old Dairy and Green Oak Pagoda and holds receptions in a giant tipi, attracting more than 2000 people a year to Wales. The farm is fully organic and still has 12 acres of oats, wildflower hay meadows and a small organic market garden growing veg for visitors and courses. Holders of the Gold Award for Best Sustainable Tourism Business in the Carmarthenshire Tourism awards for the last four years, Ceridwen’s owners greatly about the rural environment with energy demands served by biomass, solar thermal and solar PV. Employing up to 20 local staff, judges thought Ceridwen was an interesting, unique idea with “brilliant green credentials”.

Co-owner Simone Broome said, “We’re a family business based on a very small organic farm here in darkest north Carmarthenshire. Traditionally this is a farming area with very little employment outside farming and with all the difficulties associated with farming in the 21st century. We entered the awards because we’re wholly committed to being and working where we are and we want to grow a sustainable business for future generations of our family and for the local community. We’re trying to do this with the lightest possible footprint we can. Being recognised for an award like this which is rooted in rural values would mean a great deal to us, and would both boost our profile and would be a reward and a stimulus to our fabulous, enthusiastic team. And, of course, as my rather irreverent spouse has already said, it would be a very effective investment of £50 for our little business!”

ET Landnet Ltd is a leading consultancy specialising in Rights of Way, advising and representing landowners throughout England and Wales. Based in Llanelli, it offers legal and technical expertise, dealing with everything from footpath and bridleway diversions to modification orders and challenging path claims as well as public inquiries, representation cases and advice on gates, stiles, surfaces and structures. ET Landnet understands that managing public access to land is a significant issue for landowners and is there to help. Judges thought ET Landnet was a highly specialised business giving a level of expertise for its rural clients.

Michael Wood, director of ET Landnet, said: “Whilst there seem to be many awards platforms at which business may gather, the focus on those specifically working in the rural economy seemed to be absent until the creation of the Rural Business Awards.  We have watched the development of the awards and have previously thought of entering but as a small consultancy, we worried whether we were too small and too niche.  Well this year, rather than thinking, we are doing and we hope to be proved wrong! To win the award for best Rural Professional Services would be fantastic. It would be the recognition that what we do is to a very high standard and has real value to our clients and makes a positive impact on their lives in the rural community. It would highlight the benefits to landowners of engaging small specialist consultancies to handle intricate issues to achieve positive, cost effective results.”

Crwst is a micro-bakery based in Pembrokeshire at a home kitchen. Co-owners Catrin and Osian Jones produce handmade real bread and seasonal bakes all from home, with the aim of bringing London’s modern and trendy bakes to rural West Wales. Crwst supplies up to 10 local businesses in the area and uses local produce in the bakes, for example: Pembrokeshire Sea Salt. The couple grow vegetables used in bakes and uses online tools such as social media to promote the business. The whole concept of Crwst impressed judges, who felt Catrin and Osian showed vision and ambition for their relatively young business.

The RBAs are the brainchild of Leicestershire businesswomen Anna Price and Jemma Clifford, who wanted to showcase the wealth of entrepreneurial talent in rural areas of Britain – a sector of the economy they felt was all-too-often overlooked in favour of large city-based firms.

The awards are organised by rural businesses for rural businesses and judged by people who understand the rural sector, which is growing rapidly and employs in excess of 3.4 million people in more than 600,000 businesses across the UK.

Awards co-founder Anna Price said: “The Rural Business Awards gives rural enterprises of all sizes the opportunity to showcase their success and the contribution they are making to our thriving rural economy – just the firms that have entered in 2017 have combined turnovers well in excess of £70m.

“Tourism is such a vital part of the British rural economy, with businesses the length of Isles helping the whole country flourish by encouraging visitors to enjoy our glorious, green, diverse rural scenery. This was the most popular category of our awards this year and we really have seen some stunning entries, from a range of business which demonstrated not only strong financials but a deep commitment to things that really matter: accessibility and the environment. When it comes to entrepreneurship, this may be traditionally associated with the bright lights of our big cities, but the truth is that business acumen is alive and well in the Great British countryside too.

Helen Woolley, director general of the CLA, said: “Each of these outstanding rural businesses deserves a place in the final. They have shown great expertise in their field and have a real understanding of how their business fits into the rural economy. I wish each and every one good luck at the awards ceremony in October.”

I can only add from the Welsh Country team, the very best of luck for the awards ceremony in October. Even getting to the final is an achievement, but we’ll keep you updated for sure.


Welsh Dairy Farmers Have Too Much Milk

09 Jun

Welsh dairy farmers have too much milk; this is the message that has come through to me from a dairy farmer. That has got me puzzled but I’ve yet to fully check this out. However as it’s come from a dairy farmer making ice-cream it seems a reliable source. Wag’s agricultural department is suggesting these farmers use their excess milk to make ice-cream. I’m not sure if the agricultural has discussed and approved by the wag food department, actually I’m not sure if communication is live and well between government departments, but I’m guessing Wales’ ice-cream makers have not been consulted. It’s great that we have plenty of Welsh milk but it is important that our farmers find a way to make money on it.

But let me give you an example of my concern. At the recent Spring Fair, in the Food Hall alone there were NINE, yes nine ice-cream stands out of a total stand count of 58. Nine ice-cream makers and this doesn’t include the many mobile ice-cream vans that were out on the show ground. It costs about £600 for the stand alone in the Food Hall, without adding up the amount of work involved preparing product, getting home and back again, plus possibly staying there for two days. Then if your ice-cream stand is sited at the rear of the Food Hall you’re on a hiding for nothing, as visitors will doubtless have already purchased ice cream by the time they get to your stand. With competition like that, you really do have to sell a huge amount of tubs and cones to break even, let alone turn a profit. Stands are not told when they book how many of their competitors are attending, or more importantly where they will be sited, making this so much more of a gamble.

I’d be pleasantly surprised if the agricultural and food departments were in close contact, actually I’d be shocked, as only a cynical journalist could be, if that were the case. To me I’d have thought it was an obvious discussion point, but then I know nothing about the internal workings of the Welsh Government operates.

What I’m getting through though is concern for some ice-cream makers about the effect it will have on their businesses. Ice-cream is still a fairly seasonal product and I for one don’t think more ice-cream makers are needed in Wales. If the Food Hall allowed in nine ice-cream makers for the Spring Fair, how many ice-cream makers will be in there for the Royal Welsh in July, when hopefully the sun will be shining?

Now I don’t pretend for an instance to be an expert on the dairy market, truth be told, I’m not an expert on anything, but instead of pushing dairy farmers into ice-cream why were these farmers not advised to try making Welsh yogurt? Wherever you do your supermarket shopping it’s often difficult to find Welsh yogurt. So to me that means the market could do with more Welsh yogurt. However if you can track down Welsh yogurt it’s really worth the effort because the quality is always superb.

I now wait for someone to explain to me why yogurt is not a better option than ice cream ….


Ceredigion Car Parking Charges Annoying Visitors

07 Jun

Ceredigion car parking continues to be a problem.  Follows is an email I received, which I’ve shown in full as I’ve permission to do so and also the Grumpy Old Geezer item the lady is referring to.

Good morning,

I am writing with reference to the ‘Grumpy Old Geezer’ article – page 52 of your January / February magazine.

We live in Shetland and had a month touring the Lake District, Wales and down to southern England during May.  I picked up a copy of your very interesting and attractive Welsh Country magazine at a cheese farm in south Wales.  As it was out of date, we did not have to pay for it – but I was attracted by the cover.

We were horrified to find when we went to Aberystwyth harbour that cars could park for 2 hours for £2.20, whereas motor caravans – according to the little pictures on the price display board – had to pay £5.80 for a whole day with no short concessions.

We did not wish to spend the whole day there, just a couple of hours for a coffee, find the local butcher, greengrocer and baker and then be on our way.  We have no problems with paying £2.00 to £2.50 for a couple of hours parking, but £5.80 for a couple of hours parking is far too expensive.  So we asked the Satnav to find us the nearest supermarket where we could park for nothing, have a coffee and do our shopping. To our great surprise, Cardigan had the same tariffs, so again we went to a supermarket. 

It would have been good to have bought Welsh food, but at such an exorbitant cost to park, we were not prepared to pay. Having found your magazine after those incidents, we totally agree with the writer.  Sadly after those experiences, we automatically headed for supermarkets.

We did have a very enjoyable time in Wales visiting friends, but would be extremely wary about returning with a motorhome.

I would appreciate knowing this email has arrived with you and would very much appreciate your comments on the points I have made.

Thanking you,

Grumpy Old Geezer Jan Feb Issue  

Why are car parks still being used as council cash cows?

In June 2015, vandals sabotaged the council car park machines in Cardigan which meant that for a couple of weeks, trade boomed with some businesses reporting turnover increases of up to 50%. Who could imagine that vandalism would literally breathe new life into Cardigan, even for the briefest time? Like many towns across Wales, Cardigan has a predominance of small shops, some lovely coffee shops and eating places, a restored castle, plus the Guildhall. But this cash-strapped council, within two weeks had ‘found’ some spare machines and Cardigan was back to normal, basically businesses struggling because of car-park charges. These car parks showed a profit of £278k and still the Council increased these charges – you really couldn’t make this up as this council continues to use car parks as cash cows. I understood car park charges were there to maintain the car parks, but the Plaid run, Ceredigion Council appear are against free parking.  

Once the ‘new’ machines were installed, My Beloved Editor, Councillors Elizabeth Evans and Mark Cole and MP Mark Williams, then attended a traders’ organised meeting, a meeting so popular there was standing room only. A couple of Council staff attended but they didn’t grasp the traders’ wish for free parking or simply didn’t care. The traders followed this meeting with direct discussions requesting free parking – but the ‘Council Said NO’. So the traders organised an evening candlelight march through Cardigan, again attended by my Beloved Editor who didn’t see a single councillor or Assembly Member there. Further meetings followed, but the ‘Council Still Said NO’. A compromise was put forward for just two hours free parking, but the Plaid Cymru run Ceredigion County Council ‘Still Said NO’.          

However in the Senedd, last October the Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Local Government said that there should be free parking in Welsh towns in order to keep our town centres bustling. They requested the Welsh Government to set up a new fund to enable local authorities and community groups to offer free car parking in towns throughout Wales to support local shops and businesses. Plaid Cymru recognise the importance of a vibrant and diverse high street in supporting local business owners and the local economy, realising that the lack of free parking is often a big turn off for shoppers. They understand that out-of-town developments with free parking make it impossible for the high street to compete.

The not so funny joke is what Plaid say in Cardiff and what Plaid does in Ceredigion are poles apart. Think the polite phrase is – not on the same page.

I’ve gone back to the lady and explained what an uphill battle Welsh Country magazine has had trying to get Ceredigion County Council to re-think car park charges, but to no avail. A Freedom of Information questions gave e the details that Ceredigion Car Park charges in 2015/16 was £815,988 and I was also told a surplus of £172,669 was achieved. Well now isn’t that great news folks a surplus of nearly £180k but no explanation of where that money was spent. It was my understanding that car parks were not meant to be used as cash cows for the council but income was ploughed back into car parks. It was ironic then to learn that Plaid Cymru Assembly Members in Cardiff say that car parks should be free, but seemingly no-one is telling the Plaid Cymru controlled Ceredigion Council. I wonder why that is? So more hot air from Cardiff and a council in Ceredigion that seem to do as they wish to raise cash – who have thought they were both the same party?

However my main reason though for posting this item is the fact that this lady wanted to purchase local food and drink but annoyed by unrealistic car-parking charges decides to go to a supermarket where she can park for free for a couple of hours and shop there. The fact she’d have found very few Welsh food and drink products in any supermarket is, to say the least very annoying.

Please don’t ask me what I’m going to do next about this; it’s easier to admit defeat and just give up. I, along with our Welsh food and drink producers want visitors to be able to purchase, eat and enjoy local food, isn’t that one of the excitements of visiting new places? However it seems this is too difficult to achieve. If only wag food and Visit Wales could work together they might even get on our food and drink producers Christmas card list!



Freedom Of Information Number 10621

02 Jun

Freedom of Information questions are my only way of getting answers. On the 29th July 2016 I an FOI, a Freedom of Information question. I didn’t receive a full reply to all questions but was told by wag that I could apply for a ‘review’, which I did. The Welsh Government then replied to my request for a review which they turned into a ‘complaint’. Follow that if you can. The speed of which wag turns a review into a complaint is far quicker than my getting answers to my questions raised on 29/7!

Check out my post of 24th August for an update on this troublesome FOI. But here it is:

  1. Have all Welsh food festivals that applied for funding in 2016 and received £5k?
  2. If not, what did each festival receive?
  3. Did any festivals apply for funding and were refused?
  4. If so on what grounds were they refused?
  5. From which budgets or other sources of wag funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?
  6. What criteria do these festivals have to meet before they can apply for funding from other than the food festival budget?
  7. Can you clarify why wag are listed on Abergavenny’s website as a partner?
  8. Can you clarify why Conwy’s website states supported by wag with 4 wag logos? Are four logos mandatory? Or does it relate to the various wag sources they have taken funding from?
  9. Although the deadline for completed applications is the 14th July 2016 and requests were being approved within 2 weeks, there are still only nine festivals listed on Wag’s website can you inform me of the others that have been approved?
  10. As the budget for this year’s festivals is £160k, can you explain where the remainder of this budget will be allocated?

This has been not only been annoying and time-consuming for me, but a total waste of tax payers’ money and I lay the blame for that firmly at wag’s door. I ask them to consider what they have achieved in this 10 month stand off? Unlike me, Wag like ICO are not spending their own money and for a purported ‘fair and open’ government, why can’t they just answer questions when asked? As a journalist I shouldn’t have to use FOI, but as I’m banned from asking the press office questions, I’ve not many options left! Despite my ‘complaint’ wag still hasn’t given me answers that I find acceptable to questions 5, 6 and 10. So my last option was to go to the Information Commissioner’s Office, ICO, always I must say, a pleasure to deal with. However it was only on 22/5/17 that I got my reply – 10 months later – as ICO had to keep going back to wag. Here’s their response:

As confirmed in my email of 21 March 2017, the focus of my investigation concerned whether the Welsh Government had complied with its obligations under section 1(1) of the FOIA.

Section 1 – General right of access to information held

Section 1(1) of the FOIA is concerned with the general right of access to information and requires a public authority to confirm in writing whether it holds information of the description specified in the request. A public authority is only required to provide recorded information it holds and is not therefore required to create new information in order to respond to a request.

In cases where a dispute arises over whether any recorded information is held by a public authority, any investigation by the ICO must be mindful of the former Information Tribunal’s ruling in EA/2006/0072 (Bromley) that there can seldom be absolute certainty that information relevant to the request does not remain undiscovered somewhere within the public authority’s records.
Therefore, when considering whether a public authority does hold relevant information, the normal standard of proof to apply is the civil standard of the balance of probabilities. For clarity, the ICO is not expected to provide categorically whether or not the information is held, but to make a judgement based on the civil standard of the balance of probabilities as to the likelihood of whether the information is held.

Item 5

Item 5 of your request asked:

“From which budgets and other sources of WAG funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?

As you are aware, the Welsh Government informed you that it did not hold relevant information in respect of this item of your request stating that Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy had not requested or received funding for the period from January 2016 to the date of your request.

As part of my investigation of your complaint, I asked the Welsh Government to provide me with details and evidence of the search undertaken which led it to conclude that information is not held.

In response, the Welsh Government sent me screen prints of its ‘I Share’ database showing the search terms and results. The screen shots show that the Welsh Government’s searched individually for Cardiff, Conwy and Abergavenny and support the Welsh Government’s response that no applications for funding had been received/made to Cardiff, Abergavenny or Conwy.

I have therefore concluded that the Welsh Government complied with its obligations under section 1(1) of the FOIA in terms of item 5 of your request.

Item 10

Item 10 of your request asked:

“As the budget for this year’s festivals is £160K, can you explain where the remainder of this budget will be allocated?”

The Welsh Government informed you that the budget had not yet been allocated and therefore concluded that it held no information.

However, part of my investigation pointed out that you were aware from previous responses and the Welsh Government’s website that £85,000 of the £160,000 had been allocated, that the deadline for applications for funding was 14 July 2016, and that applications for funding were being approved within two weeks of receipt.

I therefore asked the Welsh Government to confirm where the remaining £75,000 was being allocated, and it confirmed (as it has in its latest correspondence to you) that £75,000 was subsumed back into the Food, Tourism and Culture Budget.

Whilst the Welsh Government’s response in its internal review that the budget had not yet been allocated was not incorrect, in my view, if it had confirmed the situation regarding the remaining £75,000 to you at the time of your request, it would have complied with its obligations under section 1(1) of the FOIA.

However, its failure to do so represents a breach of its obligations under section 1(1) of the FOIA. Additionally, the fact that this information was not communicated to you within the required 20 working day timescale, also represents a breach of section 10(1) of the FOIA.

As this information has now been provided, I have concluded that the Welsh Government has now (belatedly) complied with its obligations under section 1(1) of the FOIA.

Apart from the time and money which has really been wasted, I am just furious hy wag cannot answer financial questions. By the time I’m asking them the money has been given out by wag and spent. I cannot change that, all I want to know is where our money went. The further irony is I’m now expected to believe that Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy were not supported in any way by wag. Well I still find that exceptionally difficult to believe, made harder by the fact that both Abergavenny and Conwy had wag’s logo on their websites. It was so generous of both these festivals to credit wag with a logo presence when they’ve not had any funding at all from wag money pot!!! But if that makes sense to wag and to you, it certainly doesn’t to me. Best I dream on with that one……………………………





No Press Passes for Haverfoodfest

08 May

Over the last two years we have attended the Haverfoodfest. We’ve simply rocked up, presented our business cards, explained who we were and we’d no hassle getting in. We always saw a few of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and last year had a chat with visiting politicians including MP Steve Crabb.

For some reason this year though, after checking out their website, I used their email link which was directed to ‘admin’ and asked for 2 press tickets and a car pass. On 4th May I got notice of my email being re-directed to Lise – saying ‘think this is for you’. I’ve no idea who Lise is, or her role, but from my side it does help if there is a press contact on festival websites. Now with hindsight it seems press is not welcomed at Haverfoodfest, or maybe that’s perhaps Lise doesn’t want Welsh Country magazine to attend. I didn’t get a response, despite chasing again on 5th.

I’d actually only emailed to do my job properly, but as no hassle last year, I didn’t expect it this year, but how wrong I was. After a 90 minutes drive we got to Haverfordwest on the Saturday morning about 11.00. The event opened at 10.00 and when we drove in there were visitors going in in the bright, sunny weather. There were oodles of people milling around, all wearing the obligatory yellow vests. Ian talked to the guys on the gate and they decided they couldn’t let us in, so we were told to wait and shortly a lady called Carol came across. She said she’d replied to my email and was surprised I’d not get it, deciding it must ‘have got lost’. Well of course it must have. I explained that I was hardly going to undertake a 3 hour round trip to visit if I’d been told by email I couldn’t have press tickets. Her comment was puzzling  to me as she’d sent my initial email onto Lise and surely that meant Lise should have replied to me, doesn’t it? I thought that was strange and in my view very unprofessional, unhelpful and unwelcoming. Carol then said she’d been told ‘they’ weren’t doing anything with magazines. Again another puzzle. Not at all clear as to what that meant as Ian had been told ‘they’ weren’t going to advertise with Welsh Country magazine, but were going with a Pembrokeshire ‘magazine’ title. That’s fair enough, ‘they’ didn’t advertise with us in the previous year, so we were not going to miss something we never had!

Carol told us it we wished to attend of course we could and as it was only £3.00 each to enter, which she thought was reasonable. I didn’t think press having to pay was reasonable, so we turned around and left. We attend a huge number of events every year to work and the cost would be well in excess of £1000.00 just in entrance fees each year.  Discounting Abergavenny, this is the first time in thirteen years that Welsh Country magazine has not been allowed press tickets for an event. I’m still unsure why press, or more specifically Welsh Country magazine, was not welcomed, but there we are.

I can only hope that the food & drink producers that attended did well and the purchases I’d have made weren’t missed. Never mind, I can go to St Dogmaels’ produce market tomorrow and play local food catch-up, knowing that the selection of producers there will be a good as ever and we’ll be welcomed too!

I always look for a positive in each post, it’s not always easy, when I’m discussing Welsh food and drink, but this time it is for me as I shall not have to attend this event again.


Food Festival Funding for 2017

27 Apr

Food festival funding in Wales, now let me start this post with some good news – wag food sent this to Ian today with words that we can circulate it to anyone with an interest in Welsh Food & Drink. Well that’s a good start and although for me 7 months too late to get this information – this is progress with wag food talking to us. We’ll be sending it out tonight to all our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and anyone else who has been asking/pestering us for this news! I haven’t posted the application form, but if anyone wants it, just email me and I’ll zap it over, but here’s, in full, the application guidelines:

Strategic Business Growth: Welsh Food and Drink events

Grant Scheme Application Guidelines

Before completing the application for funding form please read through guidelines below:

  1. Scheme Aims.

1.1 The evolution of food events has seen beneficial development in many directions including the creation of market development opportunities for producers beyond the festival circuit, consumer health and education initiatives, and a variety of added value to the local economy.

1.2 The aims of the Strategic Business Growth Grant scheme will be to:

  • Increase the opportunity for new and existing micro and small businesses to test trade, developing marketing/sales skills and local sales opportunities.
  • Increase local engagement in skills/healthy eating.
  • Develop sustainable local food opportunities in line with the Food Tourism Action Plan for Wales.
  • Provide a clear opportunity for locally/regionally sourced Welsh food and drink to be available.
  • Develop community links and partner organisational engagement.
  • Encourage Local Food Tourism development.

1.3 Applications will need to demonstrate that the funding will provide evident advantage to the Welsh food and drink industry, as well as incorporate defined objectives of the Towards Sustainable Growth: An Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014-2020.

1.4 Only activities that will clearly add value to the food and drink industry in Wales will be supported. Further guidance on criteria and examples of eligible activity are issued below.

  1. Who can apply?

2.1 The scheme will be open to food festivals and markets, including one off and annual events which have a defined Welsh Food and Drink offer with the activity happening within Wales.

  1. a) Representative of producers and/or Tourism organisation who have a membership of Welsh Food and/or Drink businesses.
  2. b) Not for profit agencies or voluntary associations.

Strategic Business Growth: Welsh Food and Drink events

  1. c) Joint applications from Food/Tourism groups and business agencies.
  2. d) Individuals applying for activity/ies that will promote and benefit the wider food and tourism industry.

2.2 If an application is proposing a new event/activity, organisational structure and current/future plans must be provided, underlining capacity and ability to deliver.

2.3 The scheme is discretionary and every application is judged on its own merits and the quality of the information provided.

  1. Funding Available

The Strategic Business Growth grant scheme has a budget of £100,000, with a maximum budget of up to £5,000 available per application, funded at up to 100% of the costs.

All Festivals and events should demonstrate their commitment to longer term financial security, therefore funding support will be limited to a maximum of 3 years per festival/ event, subject to annual application and budget availability.

  1. Scheme Criteria

4.1 Applications will need to demonstrate how event proposals will address one or more of the following strategic aims:

  • Providing a trading platform for new Welsh food and drink businesses that have been trading for less than 2 years.
  • Educating consumers about Welsh food and drink.
  • Promoting healthy eating.

4.2 Proposed events must have a presence of at least 25 Welsh food and drink exhibitors and minimum footfall of 2,500 visitors.

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

  • Cookery demonstrations – promoting local/Welsh produce and healthy eating
  • Marketing/advertising materials.
  • Subsidised or discounted stand / marquee costs for new producers (trading for less than 2 years) – maximum 5 pitches.
  • Other reasonable revenue costs (non-statutory) that are required for the proposed activity to be delivered.

Strategic Business Growth: Welsh Food and Drink events

4.4 Collaborative or joint bids are encouraged, as well as innovative and new activities. Collaborative bids, of two or more events/applicants, will be capped at £10,000.

4.5 This tier will be operated via a streamlined application process. Statutory accounts will be required for established events as well as any relevant policies, Welsh Language provision and Waste Management plans. New events will be required to supply a 12-month financial projection for the year when you will spend the grant. Please include the amount you are requesting from this grant scheme in your projection.

4.6 Any written materials (including signage and information published online), must be provided in Welsh and English, unless it would be unreasonable or disproportionate to do so. Guidance about providing services and written materials in Welsh can be obtained from the Welsh Language Commissioner by visiting

  1. Scoring Criteria

5.1 The following criteria will be used when assessing ALL applicants:

  • Fit with scheme aims

Applicants are expected to demonstrate that the event will fit the aims of the Strategic Business Grant Scheme, as listed in section 1.2 above.

  • Meet with strategic aims

Applicants are expected to demonstrate that the event will address one or more of the Strategic Business Grant Scheme strategic aims, as listed in section 4.1 above.

  • Value for money

Applications are expected to demonstrate that the proposal is good value for money. Further information is noted in section 7 below.

  • Innovation

An economically vibrant and forward thinking industry must be innovative to capture markets and move forwards. Applications need to demonstrate a level of innovation, as noted in section 4.4 above.

  • Defined clear outputs and objectives

Applicants need to demonstrate the funding will provide evident advantage to the food and drink industry in Wales. Event outputs and objectives are an efficient way of measuring its success.

Strategic Business Growth: Welsh Food and Drink events

  • Capacity and ability to deliver.

 Applicants must demonstrate the capacity and the ability to deliver. New applicants must provide evidence, as noted in section 2.2 above. Financial statements from existing events will also be taken into consideration.

  • Collaborative delivery

Collaborations or partnerships with one or more applicants could improve project efficiency, the use of funds and the better delivery of activities to beneficiaries. Collaborative delivery is encouraged and noted in section 4.4 above.

6. Timescales Date
27th April 2017 Strategic Business Growth grant scheme launch
27th April 2017 First grant scheme application window opens
18th May 2017 First grant scheme application window closes
9th June 2017 All successful applicants to receive written confirmation
1st June 2017 Second grant scheme application window opens
1st July 2017 Second grant scheme application window closes
1st August 2017 All successful applicants to receive written confirmation
1st March 2018 All claims to be received no later than this date

Well I hope you find this of interest and it does show you as producers the paperwork our organisers have to complete, the boxes they have to tick and all this for £5k maximum. What has horrified me is that this year’s budget is just £100k and I look back just to 2008 when the budget was £376,786.99 when 43 festivals were funded when the ‘big boys’, Cardiff, Abergavenny and Mold had roughly £30k each and Conwy at £16k. I am seriously struggling with only £100k for 2017 when the government have set their stake high to achieve 30%??? growth through their Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014-2020. If food and drink is so important to Wales, to our food and drink producers and our visitors why is this budget constantly being cut? Not sure what I’m missing here, but I’m obviously missing something………………….

Those festivals running early I’m told, their applications will be fast tracked.Well that’s something but in my opinion, still not good enough.

I’m concerned too about 2,500 visitors, wag food require. How can those festivals running in towns, do a visitor count that is worth wag box ticking? That to me is ridiculous and I’ve forgotten how many festival press releases have been sent to me claiming they’ve had 10,000 people through a one day festival that is held in a town that not only hasn’t got car parking for 1,000 cars it doesn’t run a park & ride either! Another concern is that wag insist on 25 Welsh food and drink stands which on the face of it sounds fine but not if the festival has 200 stands there! I get very cross with wag food putting forward their criteria when I can’t see how much of it will work or be of benefit. Festival funding is usually evaluated, but I just hope it is evaluated by a Quango with a common sense attitude, but please don’t ask me to name one, as I think I’d struggle – but unless it is done in that manner it will be no help to our organisers or wag food. So my view is that these are often pointless, a waste of time and money. Our festivals have had so many evaluations done and I for one can’t see them being very beneficial.



Food Festival Conference / Funding Update

16 Mar

Please don’t chase me for an update on wag’s food festival conference / get together which was to be held yesterday. I’ve been told, by someone was attending that is was postponed and will be held at a future date. I do apologise for not posting earlier but swamped with work at the moment and couldn’t rate this as a priority – sorry.

For those of you that are also a little behind, follows is my post that was posted on 1st March:

I’m still getting calls and emails asking about this year’s and I so wish people would either read welshfoodbites or ring the Welsh Government Food Department themselves. So at the risk of sounding very much like a stuck record – I do NOT know anything about wag food’s plans on food festival funding for this year and as I keep saying, if I did I’d tell our Best Of Welsh & Borders food producers by email and then post on welshfoodbites.

I have however been sent, not by wag food, but by two Welsh Country magazine supporters, details of a wag food meeting or conference, titled Food Festivals – Building on success – to be held in two weeks time.

I note from the draft outline of the day an item headed, ‘New Funding Scheme For 2017, which will cover, Management, Criteria, Guidelines, Timescales, Next Steps and a Q & A’. So I’m assuming the food festival organisers will then know where they stand for 2017. All I can say is it’s better late than never! I’m looking forward to a festival organiser giving me an update after this meeting as I certainly cannot rely on wag food telling me what’s happening, or if a press release is sent out whether I’ll get sent one.

Please excuse my further confusion at another item titled ‘Food Festival Co-Operation Project’ I’ve no idea what on earth this might be about, or how might work and I can hardly wait to find out – no really I can’t!!!!

I’ve lost count of the number of years I’ve been worried, concerned, annoyed, frustrated, cross, angry, gosh I could go on for ever. But the point is markets and food festivals are the life blood of many Welsh food and drink producers. They need to know early which festivals are running which of course in many instances is related in part to government funding. But year after years we are left waiting to find out what is happening, all because wag food cannot communicate to producers or the media. It seems in wag’s mind it’s not important that producers AND organisers know what is happening and as that seems to be the case, I might as well give up. There is nothing more frustrating than talking to, or at, ‘someone’ who is unable or unwilling to listen……………..


Invite To The World Angus Forum

10 Mar

I’ve been invited as media to the The Angus World Forum 2017 which is being held in Scotland this June to celebrate the Aberdeen-Angus breed in its homeland for the first time in 40 years. So hoping this post and invite might well amuse you as it did me. Yes it is a food related invitation from Scotland no less!

I’m told that a press briefing is being held at the land Pavilion at the Royal Highland Showground, Edinburgh, at 11am on Friday 17th March and I must say that if I’d time I’d love to attend, Edinburgh is such a beautiful city. Now I’m not happy to say this, but I’m being forced to behave as a grown-up, well on this occasion anyway and will now have to go back to these lovely people and say thanks for their kind invitation, but I cannot escape Wales to attend their press briefing.

The Angus World Forum are just shy of three and a half months to go until enthusiasts of the Aberdeen-Angus breed descend on the UK, they will be visiting from Ireland and of course from around the world, but the organising committee want the media’s help to generate a buzz and publicise this event. All I can say on that is I am pleased that Scotland has a different take on the media, wanting to work with them, which is what I’m constantly saying Wales should be doing. The media do have their uses and it is in my view, silly to ignore them. So with nearly 4 months to get the word around, I’m hopeful that this event will work well for them.

The Aberdeen-Angus defines Scotland as the Welsh Black defines Wales. I’ve no idea if the Welsh Black Society run a similar event, but perhaps that’s something I’ve just not been told about.

My amusement comes from getting an invite from the Scottish food and drink people! Now where do I live and work? Wales. What does Welsh Country magazine focus many of its pages on? Welsh food and drink ………………………





Food Festival Conference / Funding

01 Mar

Food festival funding, I’m still getting calls and emails asking about this year’s and I so wish people would either read welshfoodbites or ring the Welsh Government Food Department themselves. So at the risk of sounding very much like a stuck record – I do NOT know anything about wag food’s plans on food festival funding for this year and as I keep saying, if I did I’d tell our Best Of Welsh food producers by email and then post on welshfoodbites.

I have however been sent, not by wag food, but by two Welsh Country magazine supporters, details of a wag food meeting or confernece, titled Food Festivals – Building on success – to be held in two weeks time.

I note from the draft outline of the day an item headed, ‘New Funding Scheme For 2017, which will cover, Management, Criteria, Guidelines, Timescales, Next Steps and a Q & A’. So I’m assuming the food festival organisers will then know where they stand for 2017. All I can say is it’s better late than never! I’m looking forward to a festival organiser giving me an update after this meeting as I certainly cannot rely on wag food telling me what’s happening, or if a press release is sent out whether I’ll get sent one.

Please excuse my further confusion at another item titled ‘Food Festival Co-Operation Project’ I’ve no idea what on earth this might be about, or how might work and I can hardly wait to find out – no really I can’t!!!!

I’ve lost count of the number of years I’ve been worried, concerned, annoyed, frustrated, cross, angry, gosh I could go on for ever. But the point is markets and food festivals are the life blood of many Welsh food and drink producers. They need to know early which festivals are running which of course in many instances is related in part to governement funding. But year after years we are left waiting to find out what is happening, all because wag food cannot communicate to producers or the media. It seems in wag’s mind it’s not important that producers AND organisers know what is happening and as that seems to be the case, I might as well give up. There is nothing more frustrating than talking to, or at, ‘someone’ who is unable or unwilling to listen……………..