Posts Tagged ‘Best Of Welsh & Border producers’

Promoting Welsh Food – Who’s Responsible?

02 Oct

Now the reason I’m raising this question yet again, is because of an interesting comment left by one of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers under the post headed – Nato Summit, Newport. I’ve huge respect for John Savage-Onstwedder of Caws Teifi cheese, he’s an artisan producer, his products are brilliant. John always talks sense and his comment really got me thinking or fuming………..

What he highlighted was the amount of money that has been spent over the years on Wales The True Taste and Welsh  food festivals. John says it is inexplicable that those responsible for promoting Welsh produce; both food and drink, still get it so badly wrong. As an example he cites that whenever there is Welsh produce on the menu, it should be explicitly named. For instance if Caws Cenarth or Caws Teifi Cheese is part of the menu, that cheese should be named. The same applies to all other products, if it’s Welsh, state it clearly. He continues that other culprits are too many of our top hotels and restaurants who are still not stocking top quality Welsh produce. In his view chefs at the various food festivals pay lip service to Welsh produce, but often its just ‘talk’ and they do not as yet ‘walk-the-walk’!

The chef comment was sad, although I’m aware that some top Welsh chefs are huge supporters of Welsh food, we still haven’t nearly enough that are banging the Welsh food and drink drum. They are the idea way to help get the message across that Wales does provide top quality food and drink.

I’ve been ranting about this to wag food for years, but my rantings make little impression on them unfortunately. But  let’s think this through and ask the question, whose fault is it that years down the track, Wales still has this problem? I’m in no mood to absolve the Welsh Government of their role, but know full well that wag will pass this ongoing problem onto their wag food department. I’d partly agree with this, but only if the Welsh Government’s food policy is to ensure that government offices, hospitals, schools, colleges, universities and nurseries, care homes etc. also support and promote Welsh food. I sure I’m right in saying that this will rarely happen as slashed budgets mean purchasing will reflect price, not quality and certainly not Welsh produce. There’s certainly not and easy answer to that one, price above promoting Welsh produce is not one we’ll win.

So moving on, I’d like to throw the gauntlet down to wag food and Visit Wales. The responsibility to promote Welsh food does lie with wag food but as food festivals are now seen more as ‘tourist attractions’ Visit Wales have a huge part to play to ensure that Welsh food is always available in all Welsh accommodation, restaurants, bistros, cafes etc. They have had years and years to get this right, but it is still, in John’s view and mine too, nowhere near good enough. Now I am going back some time, but there used to be trade events held at the beginning of each year, getting local food producers together and inviting local business and tourism operators to get discuss and work with each other. I am aware that Pembrokeshire still hold one and that seems to work, but I’m not aware of any others. Mind you if trade events were being held, I’d hope that wag food would tell me, but then again sure my hopes are too high, as that involves communication and that’s never been one of wag food’s strengths!

In November, Welsh Country magazine will have been publishing for ten years. In that time we’ve expanded our food pages to a minimum of 10 pages and in a magazine size of 68 pages, that is more than a fair crack of the whip for Welsh food and drink. We constantly encourage our eateries to use our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW listing, and we certainly encourage our readers to use that listing too and to visit food festivals and markets. But is wag food doing enough to support our Welsh producers, be they our Best of Welsh producers or not? Your answers on a postcard, an email or a comment left with this post. Please remember you have no need to use your name or your company name – you can be Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck, James Bond of Dr Who for all I care, but your comments are useful feedback.




Thanks To Sender Of Another ‘Brown’ Envelope

24 Sep

A further envelope arrived today, simply marked for my attention as Editor. To be strictly true on this occasion, it wasn’t a brown envelope, but a white one, but the envelope colour is really not the point. I’d just like to thank whoever sent in more information that he or she thinks I might be missing out on. I can totally understand the sender wishing to remain anonymous; I doubt very much that the sender is on of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers, BOW  because after ten years our producers are well aware that as a journalist, and yes wag that is what I still am, a journalist, I will not reveal my sources. It does not matter to me one jot who is questioning me. I’ve had Ministers and civil servants that have insisted that I have to give a company name to a complaint otherwise they will not deal with it. But I refuse to do that unless the company wishes me to do so and if that’s the case the company can do their complaints themselves. So no-one will action my queries or complaints, but that does save them some work doesn’t it? I would put forward complaints to wag food because until our industry can trust the food department, no company names will go forward from me.

But as to who is helping me out there, all I can say is thank-you. I just wish more ‘useful’ information came through to me, but guess I’m best being grateful and not greedy!

I hope now I’ve whetted your appetite and now you wish to know what was in the envelope. Here’s a summary for you: It was taken from Sell 2 Wales on 18.9.14.

Supplier framework for the Fork2Fork project

Short description of the contract or purchase.

FBA is seeking to establish a framework of several individuals to provide a range of consultancy support around a Welsh Government /EU funded project being delivered by the organisation. The project in question, Fork2Fork, aims to raise awareness, provide information and encourage people to buy direct from local producers. There are numerous opportunities to buy direct, be it from farmers’ markets, farm shops, box schemes, online, food festivals and of course from the farm itself. 

Ian had already picked this up from Sell 2 Wales, but the reason I hadn’t posted is we were trying to uncover more detail. Fork2Fork states that FBA will be directing the Fork2Fork campaign until June 2015.

I have spoken on many, many occasions with the Scheme Manager of the Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme, SCES. This scheme goes through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013 and is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in Rural Areas.

These are extracts taken from emails between myself and the Scheme Manger in January of last year.

The project sponsor, Francis Balsom Associates Ltd, recently made a standard request to vary and/or extend its existing project through the usual Project Variation procedure.  All projects, including those under the Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme, have the opportunity to request variations or amendments to their projects both in terms of length of time for delivery or the total cost of the project by submitting a proposal to Scheme Management Unit.  We then assess and appraise such proposals and may give approval for the amendment if it is considered to be duly justified within the terms of the Scheme and the context of the project taking into account any evaluation reports where available. FBA are delivering a project that was designed by them and which is delivering against aims and objectives set by them.  This is not a contract. This Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme project was originally approved for two years but under the terms of the scheme projects can ask for extensions up to a final date of 30 June 2015.  This project has been extended twice and the last extension was approved by me as Scheme Manager on 10 October 2012. 

In respect of the project information it was originally approved with a start date of 2 July 2009 and a completion date of 30 June 2011 with total grant award of £799,736 and at the last extension the completion date was 31 March 2014 with a total grant award of £898,497. This comprised of (approximately) £55,000 for the second national conference that was delivered in 2012 and a further £43,761 for additional activity for the website, some further information circulation and an extension to the independent evaluation as the project will now run over a longer period.

In July this year I sent through an FOI 8646, asking if Fork2Fork scheme had been extended, to what date, how much money had been awarded and what for. Also what other role is Fork2Fork undertaking for wag and at what cost and why Fork2Fork were considered a Food Hall Partner Organisation at the RWAS. Well no surprise for me to tell you that wag refused to answer any of my questions stating the Substantial Harm Test – harm would likely to occur if this information was released at this point in time. Funding information will be published in autumn. 

So the onus is on us ‘in autumn’ to keep searching for this information until we find it. No doubt it will buried on the wag website – but how helpful is that? When is wag’s autumn? Where will we find it? Is this what wag food mean when they say they are working with our industry? Pity wag can’t make life easy for us.

Oh for an open and transparent Welsh government.

I will not be the only person who will be confused with this latest happening with Fork2Fork. I’m constantly talking to food producers, as are the team here and I’ve yet to find a food producer who understands what Fork2Fork have attempted to do over the last few years, whilst being funded nearly £900k. But not to worry folks, Europe’s boxes were ticked to perfection and that seems to be the most important matter.

Just before the RWAS, Fork2Fork announced that their campaign had entered a new phase and extension until the summer of 2015. I think I can take it as read that further funding has been given to take them through to June 2015; I think that’s fair to assume. Despite my many questions, I am still not clear what, if any monitoring is in place for these SCES schemes. If there is monitoring, is it by someone with the experience to do it, or is it just done by a wag box-ticker?

I guess this latest news will upset those at Pembrokeshire Produce Direct who have had to fold their project.

It’s frustrating that so much money is thrown at these projects when so many food producers are crying out for practical help and some financial support.




Wag Rules…………………….?

01 Sep

The organisers told me officially of a Food Festival Seminar being held at Llangollen Pavilion on the 6th of February, this year. I was actually invited, but in my role as a journalist, with deadlines, to meet I couldn’t attend. Following the seminar  wasn’t told officially of the outcome, but certainly heard about it on our Welsh food grapevine. The news was that a formal body should be created of food festivals in Wales to represent the interests of food festivals in Wales and encourage collaboration between food events in Wales.

I wasn’t told of a working group that met on 19th March at the wag offices at Aberystwyth to discuss the concept of creating a grouping of every food festival in Wales to represent the interests of food festivals in Wales. However I’ve recently had some information sent through from a supporter of welshfoodbites. This has been sent in full by email to our Best Of Welsh & Border producers, so they are at least kept in the picture on what is going on in their industry.

Wag’s mission statement also says:  The working group would like the opinion of every food festival in Wales and stakeholders in the industry on the points of the proposal

Wag recently told me: Given your extensive ongoing correspondence with us, principally via our Press Office, and your active involvement as a stakeholder in the recent consultation on our new Food and Drink Action Plan

Well that’s very interesting, no I’m wrong there, it’s very annoying. According to wag food, who’ve recently decided I’m no longer a journalist, apparently wag know better than me that my role has changed within Welsh Country magazine, but it sounds as if wag food have now decreed that I’m no longer a stakeholder in the industry. So when is a stakeholder not a stakeholder? Have wag just changed their mind, but it’s too much hassle to tell me? It seems wag rules, or rather wag make up their own rules as they go along, but haven’t got the courtesy to tell me I’m now no longer considered a stakeholder by them. Wag food state they want feedback on their proposals on this proposed food festival group, but looks like only from the people they wish to have opinions from! I’m so sorry not to have been able to pass on my words of wisdom to wag food, that’s a shame. Wag and wag food will just have to keep reading welshfoodbites ………………..

The Welsh Government’s Food Division have agreed to provide a grant of £30,000 to set up the new association (subject to the specific items of expenditure being clearly identified).

For any of you that are not with us as Best Of Welsh & Border producers, but want more news about the food festival organisers group I suggest you talk directly to wag food. Good luck on that one!


Changes To Food Hall At RWAS

25 Jun

I’ve kindly been sent by a couple of helpful Best Of Welsh & Border producers some news from Wag food about the RWAS food hall. I suppose there’s no need to tell you that wag food haven’t bothered to send it to me, do you think wag food think I’ve now lost interest in Welsh food and drink? In the interests of saving your time, I’m not posting all of it, but thought this portion at might be of some interest, or at least raise a smile or two for those of you not attending the RWAS.

Wales is home to a dynamic food and drink industry, with businesses ranging from the micro, artisan businesses through a range of SMEs to larger food companies , some of which have manufacturing sites in Wales but strategic headquarters elsewhere in the UK, Ireland or overseas.

Communication of the Action Plan at the RWS Food Hall 2014

These priorities  will be communicated very clearly to the consumer audience at this years Royal Welsh Show, the Food hall will not only be a retail area, but an area to educate and inform the consumer of the importance of food to the Welsh economy, Education, Jobs, Growth and Wealth.  It is imperative for you to understand these changes and to understand why the changes have taken place within the Food Hall this year.

Changes to the management of the Food Hall this year

You will have already experienced the changes on the Management and the recruitment of the Food Producers which is now the responsibility of the RWAS.  For the first time this year the Food Hall will have a Food Demonstration kitchen area in the rear of the Food Hall, in a marquee, and a trade development area in the upper room to the Food Hall – these new areas will be managed by our appointed contractor Menter a Busnes. 

WG will have responsibility for the meeting rooms in the upstairs area and will hold several business meetings with Ministers and key influential trade buyers in the industry.

Food and Drink Wales

Wales has the food personality and interest to attract both trade and consumer investment while its ‘hero clusters’ made up of farmers and food manufacturers add to a unique offering that is Wales.

Food and Drink Wales is an overarching identity which has been successfully trialled in UK and International exhibitions. It relies on simple imagery and messaging which continues to evolve and will be further refined under professional guidance.  The identity will be in evidence in the Food Hall.

Changes To The Food Hall At RWAS

The few points underlined raised my interest for sure. We are all aware of many businesses saying they are Welsh companies and that have strategic headquarters elsewhere in the UK, Ireland or overseas 

Communication of the Food Action Plan

These priorities  will be communicated very clearly to the consumer audience at this years Royal Welsh Show As wag food struggle to communicate to its food producers, I shall be intrigued to see how they and the RWAS manage to achieve communication to the consumer audience. In fact I would be delighted to hear how many of the Welsh public have heard about, let alone understand anything about the Food Action Plan. Are the Welsh public even aware that the last one was scrapped early because it wasn’t working?  

Changes to the management of the Food Hall this year

For the first time this year the Food Hall will have a Food Demonstration kitchen area in the rear of the Food Hall, in a marquee, well in my view this is as clear as mud, it’s badly written and confusing for those that have no idea what the food hall is like at RWAS. It says for the first time this year the food hall will have a kitchen demo area in the rear of the hall, where is usually is, but continues with in a marquee. I’m told, but again not by wag or RWAS, that there’s now a marquee this year so actually it’s the marquee that is there for the first time and I guess it’s the marquee that’s attached to the food hall. I think wag  mean to say that for the first time this year the food hall is being extended with a marquee at the rear of the food hall and this is where the food demonstration kitchen area will be sited.  Communication is still the key wag food…………………………

Food and Drink Wales

Wales has the food personality and interest to attract both trade and consumer investment while its ‘hero clusters’ made up of farmers and food manufacturers add to a unique offering that is Wales. Food and Drink Wales is an overarching identity which has been successfully trialled in UK and International exhibitions.

Oh dear what am I missing? Wales has food personality. I thought it was people that had personalities, but seemingly not just people, but seemingly in government speak, Welsh food has a personality. Is it just me that doesn’t understand how any food can have a personality? However food having a personality was then beaten into the top slot with the statement that Food and Drink Wales is an ‘overarching identity’!

I’ve been telling wag food, for too many years, that they need to communicate; well if proof were needed, here it is and I stand by that. Communication is the key but not with jargon, mumbo jumbo speak like this. Perhaps as this was sent out to producers attending the RWAS some of them might be kind enough to translate all this wag news for me when I next see them, here’s hoping – but once again, not holding my breath………………….


WCM Wag Invite Lost In The Post???

28 May

Too busy to post yesterday, so belated thanks to one of our very helpful Best Of Welsh & Border producers, BOW, who rang in on Tuesday to check that we’d received our invitation to the official launch of the Action Plan Food & Drinks Industry for 2014-20. Well what a surprise dear readers to inform our BOW person that we hadn’t been invited and still haven’t.

Maybe our invite has got lost in the post, or maybe wag food forgot to release their delivery pigeon that should have headed to Welsh Country magazine at Aberbanc. Or maybe wag food have chosen to continue to ignore us in the hope we’ll go away, or maybe if we are being honest they simply don’t want us there – which was the feeling we got at the 5th meeting too!

I’m no longer interested if wag food come up with some excuse as to why we’ve not been invited. If this BOW producer has been invited then surely so should we. Welsh Country magazine sent through a full report on their proposed plan, we also attended, at least in part, the fifth ‘Quango’ meeting. Yet after all that work, time and effort and all at our cost, it seems that was insufficient to warrant an invite. That of course is despite the fact that wag food are saying that this food plan is for the industry, from the industry and will be led by the industry. Yes that’s what they are saying, so it’s no longer a surprise to us that this is more government food spin. My take on this, if the 5th meeting was anything to go by, was that the meeting was totally dominated by Welsh funded Government Quangos. Quangos that are paid from the public purse and seem to specialise in meetings, especially those held during the day. Of course the government are going to give a huge focus of their time and budgets on large companies, but I’m certain they’ll continue to ignore the micro/small businesses as they always have done. They ignore the fact that some micro businesses need help and guidance to grow and there’s every chance, given that guidance that many of these businesses could take on one member of staff and give them training, which would be an all round help on employment figures and for the companies too. But I cannot see that happening as there are no Radio or TV sound bites for the Alun Davies, Food Minister to grasp and no photo opportunities for ribbon cutting either, so a real no-winner there for this ignored sector of the Welsh food market.

Thinking about it though, I guess wag food could have invited Welsh Country Foods as that’s what Welsh Country magazine was down as on wag foods invitation list. Of course we pointed that out to them, but wag food being wag food it wasn’t altered and the list of attendees that went out showed Welsh Country Foods not Welsh Country magazine. It was just too big a job to alter it and get things factually correct!

To keep everyone up to speed follows is the original post, which was posted on 24th April:

I shall start this post as I did my last post, I got some news in this morning, needless to say, not from wag food. This one was about the Action Plan for 2014 -2020. Apparently next month this Action Plan is being officially launched in Cardiff. Obviously it is not important to tell the Welsh media so early about this launch at St Davids’ Hotel, but pleased wag’s budgets can run to paying for this venue, they must think that cost effective and value for our tax payers money. Thankfully our Best Of Welsh grapevine is working well, although I was told if I’d had stayed to the end of the fifth meeting I would have been told then. Well now need to defend my corner. Initially I was invited to this 5th meeting, then my invitation was withdrawn. After making a fuss, I was told I could attend providing everyone there knew I was press! Then on signing in wag food got our company name wrong, didn’t bother to alter it when they sent out to everyone a list of attendees! However I did tell wag food we’d be leaving early afternoon to go onto Cardiff for the Countryside Alliance Awards evening but of course I didn’t expect anyone in wag food to update me. That would come under the heading of wag communicating with me ……

I’m sure many of you will be aware of my views of this Action Plan which has been promoted as for Welsh food, with ideas from the industry, not the Welsh Government. Wag food ran 5 meetings but stupidly, again in my view, these were all held during the day. Does wag food seriously think most producers can take time out their working day? Sorry silly question, we know how difficult it is for wag food to think and certainly at micro producer level. But then as that group of producers tell me wag food have never been interested in them, they can’t visualise growth for them with the right support, Welsh food and drink is important to Wales but wag food have no right to dismiss micro food producers.

I’m a cynical journalist, that’s a fact, but as I understand it only 77 ‘people/companies from the food industry submitted their views and comments. Just 77 from an industry that has 14,000 registered businesses and employs 45,000 people. If I’d have been working for wag food, 77 attendees is not something I’d want broadcasting, because it is proof of wag’s complete failure in communicating with the industry they are supposedly working for. I know I go on endlessly about communication, or in wag foods’ case the total lack of it, but I was hoping my water-on-a-stone-technique would work with wag food, but not so far. If I’d been doing the PR for these meetings, I’d sure hope I could have persuaded more to attend, which could easily have been achieved if the meetings had been held at night!!! If I couldn’t obtain e more than 77 responses I’d be asking why? Why isn’t the industry interested? Wag food could have easily got my opinion if they wanted it, which is now even clear to me that they don’t!

The fifth meeting that Ian and I attending was an additional meeting asked for by people attending the other four, well cynical Kath thinks Quango people like meetings! You’ll not be surprised that I was disappointed that my fellow attendees at that final meeting were by and large from Welsh Food Quangos, I only noticed 2-3 food producers. So what does that tell you? Firstly that Wales funds a heck of a lot of food related Quangos, so it doesn’t appear wag foods’ budgets have been chopped too much in that area and secondly, that Quangos can take time away from their desks during the day, unlike food producers.

So that’s the latest news, and many thanks to those of you keeping me updated, it’s good to talk…………………….




Update Food Policy Evaluation

31 Mar

People are still asking my view on the above, so perhaps it’s worthwhile if I do my own brief evaluation. We were summoned in 2010 to give our opinions on the Government’s proposed 10 year food plan. We told them there and then that a 10 year plan would not work and we suggested a five year plan, but we were either ignored or over ruled, the result was the same. The government went their own sweet way, planning food for ten years. There’s little satisfaction in us being proved right, with no idea how much money has been thrown at this 10 year plan or has been wasted but more importantly many of us were furious about being ignored.

Ignoring food producers when they give their time freely, has in my view damaged the industry, certainly at micro level. But now along with True Taste, wag food have dumped their 10 year plan and off we go again with another 4 meetings held across Wales. The difference this time is these meetings were all scheduled and held during the day, which is perfect for Quangos and we all know Wales has more than it’s fair share of those! But what no-one in wag food appears to have given a single thought to, is how many producers can afford to take at least half a day off and drive to their nearest meetings? I’ve no idea why this never occurred to them, to me it’s obvious, but then I haven’t got the luxury of a salary dropping into my bank each month regardless! Micro producers for some reason don’t seem important to wag and I think many micro food businesses have the chance of growing giving the right support. Seemingly this does not appear to be on wag food’s agenda. Fifty micro producers could easily be helped to employ one person per company – that’s 50 people in employment and learning a trade that Wales needs.

However to try and prove my theory, I’ve asked for lists of attendees to each of the 4 public meetings. My request was refused on the grounds of Data Protection. We understand about 30 people on average attended each meeting, which is pretty poor in my book. Then Ian was told that only 77 responses in total were received. We understand that wag food have 900+ producers listed, so I find this appalling.

How did wag food contact everyone involved in food so they were aware of this feedback? Or did they just not bother apart from posting on their website? Apparently at one of the meetings a further seminar was requested which was held last Tuesday at the Royal Showground in Builth Wells. All 77 that sent in feedback were invited, which included Ian and I, but then I was told by the press office that I could attend, but would have to leave after the Minister’s speech, charming! Ian and I then spent ages emailing and phoning to eventually be told on Monday that we could attend, but had to ensure everyone knew we were press, how annoying and pathetic. I would have thought the press office would know by now that Welsh Country is bi-monthly and I was not going to be reporting on something that has not been decided. Plus our editorial policy is to support our advertisers and wag food are not yet back working with us, so there will be no coverage in the magazine, in anyway. Welsh food of course continues to be important to us and we do like to know what is going on, journalists are nosey creatures by nature, hence we thought we’d take valuable time out from our day jobs and attend.

Well to sign in and be given badges for Welsh Country Foods, not Welsh Country magazine, was not a good start, but just as well that as usual we’d already got our own badges on. As expected, the shiny suits and shoes abound as Welsh Quangos were out in force again. Ian and I stayed only for the morning session as we were off to Countryside Alliance Awards, but we only knew of one other food producer in attendance. I could well be wrong on that, but certainly not by much, as Quangos dominated for sure. To be paid to attend and collect your mileage is certainly an incentive, but that’s an incentive most food producers haven’t got and that’s a fact that wag food, sadly seem to have ignored. But the bottom line is that without our Welsh food producers, our many and varied Quangos would not exist.

Of course there was a question of anonymity or lack of from the notes from wag which I posted about in December and that cannot have helped this situation. Wag food will never tell me who has responded, but I suspect that every Welsh Quango related to food will have, without a doubt, responded. Which means the picture wag food has been given to me is blurred and not accurate of our food industry.

I’m extremely disappointed that I’ll not get a breakdown of the 77 respondents, but also disappointed that much of our industry couldn’t be bothered. If I was wag food I’d want to know why, but to save them puzzling, as many of them read, they’ll know that they’ve not re-established any trust, especially with micro producers. We circulated wag food’s draft action plan around our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and posted it on, although it’s certainly not our job to do so, but I’m sure wag food are grateful for our support!!! I emphasised that it was irrelevant how fed-up food producers were with wag food, feeling they were always ignored by them, but that this proposal, when finalised, will define Welsh food for the next six years. Despite my pleas, many of you still refused to participate and send your thoughts and views through to wag, although I think some did saying they’d no trust in wag food, so they were not prepared to waste mot of their time. Some said the feedback form was too complicated and that you didn’t feel it applied that much to you and your business. I can accept that, but only up to a point. You could just have easily put an email together and given them your opinion, telling them what’s right, what’s wrong, what you want changing and why. That is surely not too tough to get your voice heard.

Anyway the consultation is closed, you’ve missed the boat and I’m still unhappy with only 77 responses. But if you are not one of those 77 who did respond, please don’t dare give me a hard time moaning about festivals and markets, distribution, problems accessing grants, staffing, lack of communication from wag food etc. etc. this was your opportunity to raise these points with the civil servants that are paid to work for you, the people that can make your life easier or harder…………………………………………………………!!




Food Festival Application Forms 2014 -2015 Forms for 2014

25 Feb

Huge thanks to the kind person who called in yesterday, Monday 24th asking if I knew the food festival funding forms had been sent out that day. There were huge giggles from both of us realising that was such a silly question, wag food send me some information that they’d know would be of interest to me and followers on welshfoodbites, oh please………………….

Co-operating, working together, helping each other, making life easier, stopping wasting my time, but reality check, this is wag food we are talking about. I’m aware wag food are not fans of this site and I can understand that as I’m often taking them to task. But they know the support we have and give to our Best Of Welsh & Border producers, most of the complaints and grumbles come directly from them. But wouldn’t a better attitude be for them to address the many issues that are raised year after year?

Anyway back to this post, my caller then sent me the forms through so many thanks. This was followed within an hour by another supporter asking if I had got the funding forms through. So thanks guys, pleased as always that you are talking to me. I don’t mind at all if I get twenty emailed copies of the same thing, better that than be left in the dark by wag food and the press office. Communication is after all the key, well in my world it is. I’ve not copied all the forms out as kill a tree comes to mind, just look again at last year’s and you’ll be virtually up-to-date. I’m not pleased that there are so few changes from last year, because in my view last year’s criteria didn’t work. Maybe in that case it would have been better not doing a food festival evaluation last year, save some much needed money, but wag can’t do that because those blessed boxes have to be ticked, regardless of cost.

When we are still in a situation like this being dished up with more of the same, I have to ask myself  do I really know anything about Welsh food and what is happening out in Wales? Ten out of ten for wag’s cheek to state that they are supposedly taking note of the Food Festivals Seminar, the very seminar that wag couldn’t even be bothered to organise for the last two years, even though the Minister, Alun Davies has said that the Welsh Government are responsible for food festivals. I admire the organisers of the seminar for running it, but you’ve made a rod for festival organisers’ backs because wag food will never organise another one – despite their responsibilities. I’ve little idea of what went on at that seminar, but hope wag find it useful. Follows are some sectors for your interest: The decision has been made to operate an interim Food Festivals application process for 2014 – 15.  This will allow us to review plans for the future funding of Food Festivals and wider programme of food events beyond 2014 – 15 in line with the outcome of the consultation on the Food and Drink Action Plan, the 2013-14 Food Festival Evaluation and feedback from the recent Food Festivals Seminar.  Food Culture Grant Funding – Food Festivals – Business Plan Guidance The following points should be borne in mind when preparing your business plan, and will be used in the scoring of all applications. Promotion of Welsh Food Culture

  • Clear focus on Welsh food and drink  / supported by strong programme of associated events
    • Supporting a good range / quality of producers
    • Well established / growth potential
    • Supplemented by chefs demos / opportunities to showcase produce
    • Awareness raising of the event by promotional material/ Press/signage
    • Press, PR and marketing – budget identified/appropriate to the scale of event
    • Greater awareness of local food – championing local producers
    • Innovation

Benefit to Local Community

  • Educational or social function – building on benefits of fresh, local, quality produce.
    • Stimulating both the demand for local produce and the supply in the area
    • Community engagement/participation
    • Involvement of local businesses particularly hospitality sector
    • Cultural entertainment
    • Sense of Place


  • Local Economic Benefit
    • Community links and partner organisational engagement
    • Evidence of spend towards local economy e.g. wages / goods / services (accrue to the host community)
    • Economic impact on Producers
    • Creation of jobs
    • Sustainability
    • Building on the tourism offer / true food destination
    • Stimulates new enterprise and business growth
    • Other public and private sector investment leveraged


  • Meeting objectives / aims of the Welsh Government
    • Grow the sales of Welsh food and drink in the Tourism sector
    • Increase consumer confidence in, and awareness of the quality of food purchased in Wales
    • Increase sales of Welsh food and drink

The applications will be scored on the following elements in as explained in the criteria:

Evaluation Criteria Weighting
Number / % of Welsh food producers 20%
Supporting Welsh Government’s food   and drink objectives 20%
Business Plan 50%
Value For Money 10%

Food festivals are there to promote Welsh food and drink and Welsh food producers. Last year Welsh festival organisers are told to get 75% Welsh stands, yet that’s only worth 20% weighting – why is that? Why isn’t that worth more? Wag’s threat is that if organisers don’t have 75% Welsh stands then funding will not be paid, but how will this work in practice? How many festivals didn’t get their full funding last year, that didn’t comply with 75% Welsh stands because I passed full details to wag food of one that didn’t, that only made 50%. Ian and I didn’t get thanked for doing this work for wag food, needless to say we didn’t get paid either, but our time-consuming email didn’t get an acknowledgement either! But following our efforts, all festivals were them told by wag food to send in a full list of their exhibitors and where they came from!!!  So I still feel this appears to be an idle threat which I’m unsure wag can see through – as last year……………………………….. Press, PR and marketing – budget identified/appropriate to the scale of event. Obviously I have to declare self-interest on the advertising front, but this is another criteria that didn’t work last year and will surely not work this year either. Ian is regularly told by organisers that ‘there is no budget to advertise their festival’. Even though we are the foodie magazine across Wales, I don’t even get press releases from all funded festivals, a fact I hope is noted in the festival food evaluation, but if we cannot get advertising, then we have to accept that decision, that’s fair enough. I just require organisers to state clearly on paper to wag how they are going to market their festival. I’d also wish that producers  ask what marketing plan is in place BEFORE they book their stand. I’ll not listening to any moaning if you haven’t done that because the fault is then as much yours as the organisers!! Ian has now picked up that wag food is again this year asking for CVs for those directly included in management of activity. Isn’t this bureaucracy at it best? I cannot see the point in this but do wonder if wag insists that all funded money requests CVs…………………you sure couldn’t make this up could you? Another issue Ian raised was that 80% of stands must be food and drink. Well that certainly caused confusion last year with some festivals ditching craft stands altogether. Now my take on it is that crafts, if they are good quality, they can add to a festival and keep visitors there longer, which should mean they’ll spend more money!! But I do worry that this money is from the food budget and I would like craft stands to pay a fair amount for their stands.


A Further Update On Winter Fair

19 Dec

It goes without saying that Ian and I spent a lot of time in the food hall at the Winter Fair and it was a good opportunity to chat to our Best Of Welsh & Border producers that were there and at the Farmers’ Market.

I was though asked a number of questions that I couldn’t answer and I’ll show a selection:

  • I was asked if the new Head of Food had already left his post.
  • Then another asked who is, and where is the new Head Of Food? Another asked why the new Head of Food wasn’t touring the stands and finding out about them?
  • A further producer asked why the old Head Of Food was spending so much time in the food hall.
  • Some producers were cross to learn that some producers were attending for free. Something that happened at the RWAS too.
  • A question was asked of me why where Puffin Produce again allowed in the food hall to basically do PR. This producer wondered if it was because wag food had funded them rather well.
  • I’d also been told, again by a producer, that 8-9 Wavehill people attended the Hay festival and why was that as he understood Wavehill were doing a telephone survey on food festival funding. Yet another question I couldn’t answer because I’d been told officially that CLES/Wavehill were doing this evaluation through completed paperwork and by telephone. I wondered if this has now changed and asked if the fee for CLES/Wavehill had been increased for this extra work. If not weren’t both these companies being initially overpaid?

I sent this through on 5th December to a wag food official who actually came up to me for a chat at the Winter Fair. I thought I’d made it clear saying that I wasn’t posting these questions on welshfoodbites, thinking it would be helpful to their department to know what the food producers were saying, and annoying for me that I couldn’t answer the, but there we are. The workings of wag food still remain a mystery to me. I really thought that I’d made it crystal clear that my intention was to be helpful, to try and get the Welsh food team to understand what the actual feeling was amongst producers at the Winter Fair. I also stated: that I have to accept that I’m probably wasting yet more of my time being an unpaid wag food spy…………………    

Well wasting my time was the complete understatement of this year – and that is saying something with this department. My questions weren’t answered; instead I received an email saying my questions were being referred to the press office. Well if I thought for a nanno second that the press office would be interested, able or prepared to answer these questions, then I would do what I’m constantly told to do – go through the press office. But as initially these questions were not being published, there didn’t seem to me to be any point – but I’m wrong again!!!!

My email, stating these were sent to the food department to help them, was ignored, no doubt because the food department might still feel they are doing a great job. Which I guess is an easy mistake to make when this department seems incapable of either talking or listening to the food producers they are supposed to be working for. I’m not interested in hearing time and time again that: there is now a new regime in the food department. We want to work with you and get your views. Well that’s rubbish. Firstly this site isn’t all my views it’s from food producers who are with us on Best Of Welsh & Borders and other producers who are happy to talk to us because they know we can be trusted. If wag want to ‘work’ with us why am I still being sent around in circles and no-one wishes to answers my questions? If wag food were doing the job we are paying them for, then I wouldn’t have endless questions directed at me would I? The basic fact is wag food are not trusted by the producers. Wag don’t talk to producers. Wag don’t listen to producers  either or for that matter do they listen to me. If they did I wouldn’t be asking the same questions each and every year.

Anyway by 16th December I’d had no reply, so chased it up to be asked can you clarify what you need this information for?  Having nothing else to do, apart from a looming press date, I replied and explained once again.

To be then asked: can you please tell me whether you need this information for the magazine or the website, or whether this is only an information gathering exercise?

I’ve also asked by a further email why the Head of Food wasn’t as the Winter Fair. But I was told in a nutshell, it was not the job of the press office to check out civil servants’ diaries. Well I’m asking a specific. This is about one man, one diary – one guy who is in one of the most powerful roles in Welsh food and drink. Why is such a simple question so difficult for civil servants to grasp and answer?  I’m not interested in general civil servants diaries, why would I be? It’s me asking about the new man in post, the top man in the food department.

Isn’t the most important point here that I’m relaying questions that were from food producers? If any of the wag food people were badge up and had spent their time touring the food hall – maybe, just maybe, some brave food producers would have been able to ask their questions directly. But many of the food team weren’t badged up, they often didn’t have business cards, but perhaps they didn’t feel it was a working day for them so these, what in my mind are basics, weren’t needed. I think I could safely lay money that the wag food team didn’t go around and speak to our food producers, if they had why would their questions have been directed at me?

I was appalled our Head of Food wasn’t there. But the crux of the matter is I’ve I’ve spent too much time, writing lots of emails, to lots of civil servants who were not able to actually read and understand what I was trying to achieve. So why am I bothering? I’m bothering because I want to support our food producers which is the job wag food can’t seem to be able to do.

I’d no intention of posting this – although, with hindsight, it would have been the easiest and quickest way for me to air these problems from the food hall. Annoyingly it’s been a total waste of my time and effort and it’s infuriated me beyond belief, hence my sharing it with you. It will also go as an apology to those producers whose questions I could not get answered. It feels like my failure but the bottom line is, in my view, a wag food department failure.

I was told in the food hall, and not by a producer – that I was wag food’s most severe critic – well I wonder why that is wag? If you have difficulty answering that question just read welshfoodbites, in full, and remember its food producers speaking to you too!!! I’m probably one of the few people stupid enough and prepared to keep wasting their time and energy trying to get the food department to understand what is happening out there. I should have more sense after nine years of being bullied by this department. I must admit that. But in my defence I thought the new regime would change that attitude, now I’m not convinced. You might wonder why I bother and that’s a question I ask myself – daily. But we have over 125 food producers with us on our Best Of Welsh & Borders as advertisers, not to mention eateries and accommodation providers. Welsh Country magazine has always said that we’ll support our advertisers, what Ian and I didn’t appreciate was how frustrating it would be with the Welsh food department. I don’t expect wag food to put on record that they appreciate the work that we are doing, but doesn’t this clearly show that that they have no intention of working with us? That they don’t need our help? I’m not just talking advertising here, but understand food producers and the difficulties they continue to face.

So continue to read welshfoodbites wag food, because as my emails are treated with contempt, that’s  the best way now you’ll find out what is really happening with food producers. Unless you think fork2fork might be able to keep you more up-to-date and you’ll feel that your latest £43k donation to them for 12 months work to copy and paste any press releases onto their website worthwhile? I don’t think so, but that’s another of your dubious money wasting decisions that many people do not agree with. £43k you live in another world than we do and have a total disregard for the value of tax payers money, even though the SCES scheme is European money, there should still be no difference.




Action Plan For Welsh Food Consultation

25 Nov


The Minister For Natural Resources, Alun Davies will be launching the consultation document, Delivering Growth at the Winter Fair on Monday 2nd December.

Wag food’s plan includes three central themes and seven priorities. The themes are:

1. To form a Food & Drinks federation to offer leadership to the food sector;

2. To develop a new Food & Drink Wales identity for food to support trade and market development;

3. A focus in training and up-skilling throughout the food chain.

The seven priorities included:

1. Food market growth.

2. Food culture.

3. Food safety.

4. Climate change.

5. Improved integration and efficiency in the supply chain.

6. Health.

7. Social wellbeing.

The consultation is available on line at

We’ve spent much of today trying to get this link to work and failed miserably. So suggest ring or email if you wish your views to be heard.

You can also request copies from the Welsh Government’s Food Division by calling 0300 062 2436 or email:

That’s the official story of where things are to date.

I’ve asked wag food press office if they are issuing an official press release after Mr Davies’ announcement, and the good news is they are. So this will be sent out to all our Best Of Welsh & Border producers as soon as possible.  I do worry how other Welsh food producers will find out about this latest food consultation but it’s not my job to contact them all is it?

Of course there’s nothing to stop you passing your views through in the two ways wag food suggest. Whether your/our views will make any difference, only time will tell. But if you don’t even bother then we’ll have to accept what wag food’s proposed strategy is once again. I know you all felt badly done to last time when many of spent our spare time going to wag meetings but we were not listened too. Well it could happen again  – there’s not certainly that it wont, but please at the very least send them and email with your concerns and worries. It’s no use moaning at Ian and I and our team to get things change – we are virtually powerless to get wag food to listen to us. We always pass on your concerns but they are not often actioned.

The strategy is formed from recommendations of the Food & Farming Panel.


First Milk & Adams Foods Announce Strategic Partnership

01 Nov

Our interest is Welsh food, all sectors but I’m grateful to one of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers who sent through to me a press release about the dairy industry. So follows is the press release which might be of interest to those of you involved in the dairy sector:

The Boards of Adams Foods, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of cheese, and First Milk, the largest British farmer-owned dairy co-operative, have announced that they have entered into a long term strategic partnership.

The partnership will establish a fully integrated supply chain for hard cheese in the UK retail, foodservice and wholesale sectors through harnessing the complementary resources, skills and experience of both companies. 

As part of the partnership, Adams Foods will utilise its best-in-class facility at Leek in Staffordshire to cut, pack and market 50,000 tonnes of hard cheese, including branded cheddars, produced at First Milk’s award winning Lake District and Haverfordwest creameries. Adams Foods will take on the business for the sales and marketing of this cheese to British retail, foodservice and wholesale customers. First Milk will continue to manage the sales and marketing of its cheddars to export markets. 

First Milk will receive a competitive price for the cheese, with the partnership also facilitating significant additional investment at First Milk’s creameries to ensure that they are amongst the best in the UK dairy industry.


The long term partnership will deliver strong benefits to both companies, their customers and the wider dairy industry:

The partnership will create a comprehensive integrated supply chain for the UK hard cheese market.  It will be able to guarantee existing and prospective retail, foodservice and wholesale customers a secure, efficient and traceable supply of high quality British and Irish hard cheese. 

  • It will secure a sustainable, long-term outlet for the majority of First Milk’s hard cheese.  In doing so, it will allow First Milk to put more commercial focus on brand development outside cheddar.  Other priority areas will include lifestyle nutrition, foodservice (excluding hard cheese) and exports.
  • It will reinforce Adams Foods’ position as a leading supplier of both British and Irish cheese in the UK, and build upon its existing supply relationships with British cheese makers such as Parkham Farms and South Caernarfon Creameries. 
  •  It will provide a strong platform for the further development of Adams Foods’ retail, foodservice and wholesale customer label, convenience format and branded cheddar offering.  It will complement Adams Foods’ best in class capabilities in relation to product and packaging innovation, marketing and category management.
  •  At a wider industry level, the partnership will play a key role in helping to sustain and develop the British cheese market. It will provide greater stability to the wider British dairy industry following a period of considerable volatility both at a processor and farmer level.





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