Posts Tagged ‘Deputy Minister for Farming and Food’

At Last Wag Has a Full Board

30 Jun

I received this press release this afternoon from wag and have published it in full:

Food & Drink Action Update
A year since Towards Sustainable Growth was launched, the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans today provided an update on progress to deliver the priorities of our action plan for the food and drink industry in Wales.

The update included significant work to redefine the Bwyd a Diod Cymru Identity, which will encompass the diversity of the food industry and champion and celebrate the Welsh language. We have also launched the new Food and Drink Wales website, to improve two way communications with industry, as well as the Food Tourism Action Plan for Wales which will result in much closer working between Food Division, Visit Wales and external partners to create opportunities for food producers and tourism businesses alike.

The Minister said, “The plan has been, and continues to be, about action. It is predicated on partnership between government and industry. We are a pro-business government, working closely with companies to create growth and jobs in every part of Wales and we established an overarching and challenging target of 30% growth in sales by 2020 and we are on course to achieve this target.”

The latest priority sector statistics for farming and food reported £5.8bn turnover which means that we have already achieved 11.5% growth since 2012-13.

To support business growth, Rebecca Evans today announced the development of a Micro-Business Cluster programme to ensure that we dedicate support for the smallest businesses to ensure a sustainable pipeline of new businesses, and the development of a new Impact Business Cluster programme, that aims to target businesses who are looking to grow at a rate of 50% a year. These programmes will have business leaders at their heart, and who will help shape and lead their development.

This follows a recent announcement of investment over £2.5m during the next two years to ensure Wales continues to have a strong presence at a series of key UK and international trade events. This support will continue to enable our companies to enhance their profile, build market share and maximise their sales in both existing and new markets.

In 2014/15, as a result of their participation in the UK and International events programme, Welsh companies secured nearly £6m additional business, with further opportunities identified of over £16m.

The Minister also used the opportunity to announce the new members of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board, another key commitment.

“I am pleased to announce today that following the receipt of many applications and a rigorous assessment process we have full membership to the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board. They are the voice of the industry, the voice for businesses of all sizes and the voice for the supply chain. It is vital that a shared responsibility is developed between Government and industry and this is where I see the Board playing a major part.”

She thanked the interim Chair, Robin Jones, from Village Bakery, who is now stepping down from the role saying he provided “a dynamic voice” which will help deliver “a new era of opportunity, growth and success.”

The members of the Food and Drink Industry Board Wales are:
• Norma Barry, InsideOut Organisational Solutions,
• Annitta Engel, D.B.G.E Limited,
• Catherine Fookes, Organic Trade Board,
• Justine Sarah Fosh, Improve,
• Buster Grant, Brecon Brewing,
• Alison Lea-Wilson, Halen Môn,
• David Lloyd, ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre,
• Katie Palmer, Sustainable Food Cardiff,
• Llior Radford, Llaeth y Llan,
• Andy Richardson, Volac,
• Justin Scale, Capstone Organic,
• Marcus Sherreard, Dawn Meats,
• Huw Thomas, Puffin Produce and
• James Wilson, Welsh Fishermen’s Association

Our Deputy Minister says this food and drink plan is all about action, but I disagree when it has taken since the second round of applications closed on 24th April, for us to be told who the government has appointed to its latest food board. But perhaps that qualifies as civil service action. Over two months to give the green light to five more people – none of whom are running their own businesses and people I think we’d describe as ‘suits’. I have to wonder if tax payers will feel it’s been worth the time and money spent on this action plan. This press release has already been sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and I’ve already been asked which of the people on this board are not paid by wag or have not been funded over the years by wag. But sure most of you can work that answer out yourself. I apologise to our BOW producers if you get this press release twice today, assuming wag food might have bothered to do that. Never mind wag food, I’m happy to help you do your job for you. Remember, Kath says communication is the key.

We are told that it’s vital that a shared responsibility is developed between Government and industry and this is where our Deputy Minister sees the Board playing a major part. What she hasn’t bothered to explain is how this will happen. We are all aware that the government and in particular the food department, cannot or will not communicate to food and drink producers, so I’m at a lost how this board will achieve ‘a shared responsibility’. Let me know what you think.

We are also told that Wales continueo to have a strong presence at a series of key UK and international trade events. Well that’s great news for those companies that get invited to these events and have proved to wag that they have potential to grow. But what about the micro and small business who often have festivals and farmers’ markets as their starting points? Well we’ve no idea what the food festival budget is this year due to wag splitting the funding list into two and I’ve yet to be given the second tranche of funding, which will not be until the end of July. But let’s assume the funding has been chopped again. Let’s also assume that wag will not explain why, after bleating on for years that festivals must be self-funding, that they have now given the green light for some festivals to apply for £25k instead of £10k. Where’s the logic there wag? How’s that self-funding? Or for the big three, Conwy, Cardiff and Abergavenny does your ruling not apply? Now to farmers’ markets, which wag are not responsible for, as that’s down to county councils, but it was ok for wag food to approve a project of £800k, initially – it ended up lots more – to look at farm shops, box schemes and markets. There must be some logic there too, but maybe I’m missing it!

Delighted to read that Deputy Minister has announced the development of a Micro-Business Cluster programme to ensure that wag dedicates support for the smallest businesses to ensure a sustainable pipeline of new businesses, and the development of a new Impact Business Cluster programme, that aims to target businesses who are looking to grow at a rate of 50% a year. These programmes will have business leaders at their heart, and who will help shape and lead their development. Now isn’t that good news? Note that this is for companies who are ‘looking to grow at a rate of 50%’ I guess that applies to quite a few companies, but in this poor economic climate how will wag judge if genuine growth is there? Bear with me as I’ve got it now, wag will have business leaders at their heart, and who will help shape and lead their development. What a pity there are no business leaders named.

My fear, as it seems to be with this government and the food department, is that wag have offered sound bites, but there’s precious little meat on this bone that will achieve a great deal and with Welsh food and drink so important to Wales we do need much more. .

Please do let me know your views and add your comments on


Applications Open For Further Members Of Food & Drink Wales Industry Board

30 Mar

This came through this morning and is shown in full:

Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans, and the interim Chair of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board, Robin Jones, are inviting industry representatives to join the shadow Board.
The Board is the voice of the food and drink industry in Wales, providing direction, sharing vital information and encouraging networking.
The interim Chair and shadow Board have been invited by Ministers to undertake a further recruitment exercise to increase the breadth of coverage of the Board, and to encourage applications from under-represented groups.
The Deputy Minister said,“The food and drink industry is one of our largest business sectors, employing over 170,000 people. Supporting the industry to develop and move in positive new directions is a key priority for the Welsh Government with the aim of growing sales in the sector by 30% to £7 billion by the year 2020. A Food and Drink Wales Industry Board is vital for our Action Plan to become industry-led and become the voice of the wider sector in Wales. To ensure a truly representative voice we are keen to ensure the Board attracts applications from women, disabled people, young people and individuals with an ethnic minority background who are genuinely interested in the work of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board and can contribute to making it a high performing public body. Whoever is appointed will play a key role in ensuring we embed sustainability, competitiveness, efficiency, productivity, profitability and food safety throughout the food and drink industry and I have every confidence that once the Board is fully established it will enable us to deliver the actions of the Plan and achieve our vision of growing our industry in Wales.”
New members are being sought who have experience of the food and drink sector, particularly business management, marketing, knowledge transfer, research and development and innovation.
The shadow Board is already up and running with a positive introductory meeting under Robin’s chairmanship held on 11 March. The Board will operate in shadow form until it reaches full complement. An official launch will be held in late summer.
Closing date for applications is 24 April 2015.

My plea now is for someone to give me strength, or at least give me some understanding of what is going on in the head of our Deputy Minister for Farming and Food those in wag food who are surely somewhat responsible for guiding her decisions and actions. Quite simply what is going on?

So I have to say I’m rather at a loss as to what is happening. Wag have already advertised for people to join the board and I understood that 40 people were interviewed. Then we were told a shadow board had been set up and after that we were told the shadow Chairman was going to seek out other people to join the board so there was a good mix of companies. So has the shadow chair done this or not? I guess he can’t have otherwise there would be no need to go through this rigmarole yet again. But it does give the impression that there is no rush for this board to be set up.

If you require an update please view posts on this item on 3rd March and 4th March.

Initially the first Board meeting was scheduled for 8th December. Now as April approaches the shadow board has had one meeting and we’ll not have an official launch until late summer.


Update On Food & Drink Board

04 Mar

Thanks to the unknown sender of the latest brown envelope to arrive on my desk. I understand you not wishing to be named, but I’m grateful for your help. The envelope contained a letter sent to Assembly Members from our Deputy Minister for Farming and Food. But this latest news is obviously of no interest to food journalists or food bloggers as we’ve no interest in food have we??? But I must ask why is this information not given to us? Why is it kept behind wag’s closed doors. Doesn’t anyone in wag think there is any interest or concern about what is happening with this board? The government says that Welsh food and drink is important to Wales but if that’s true, tell us what is happening. 

Anyway my unknown source thinks I and then you, should know about this and it now means that this letter keeps us in the loop as to what is happening with the Welsh Food and Drink Board. But it’s disappointing that wag food cannot tell me and you officially. I would have thought something that relates to food and drink producers would have prompted them to update those very people, but seemingly not and as for journalists we don’t matter either. 

Anyway here it is in full: 

 24th February 2015

In 2014 the Welsh Government launched and published ‘Towards Sustainable Growth: an Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014-2020′. The plan has been, and continues to be about actions, targets and timescales. It is not a high level strategy, but focuses on the delivery of actions to encourage industry growth and deliver on a number of other Welsh Government priorities including tackling poverty and the greening of growth. There are 48 actions in total.  The actions show the Welsh Government as an active and supportive partner to industry, by providing clarity, certainty, and confidence.

With firm support from industry, we undertook to establish a Food and Drink Wales Industry Board to bring the sector together and help drive sustainable growth. The Board must be industry-led and will provide direction, encourage networking and share market development information. It must take joint ownership of the Action Plan with Government and implement changes. Although Welsh Government will support the Board in its early phases, it will become independent of government and offer direct advice to Welsh Government.

In July 2014, Robin Jones was appointed as interim Chair of the shadow Board. Robin is Managing Director of The Village Bakery. During the autumn the Welsh Government (WG) advertised to recruit potential members of the Board through a “light touch” public appointments process with an appointment panel including Robin.

I am pleased to announce that the following persons have been invited to join the shadow Board:

 David Lloyd, ZER02FIVE Food Industry Centre, Cardiff

Marcus Sherrerard, Dawn Meats, Carmarthenshire

Llior Radford, Llaeth y Lian, Denbigh

Andy Richardson, Volac, Felinfach, Lampeter

Justin Scale, Capstone Organic, Pembrokeshire

Buster Grant, Brecon Brewing, Brecon

Huw Thomas, Puffin Produce, Pembrokeshire

Alison Lea-Wilson, Halen Mon, Anglesey

Norma Barry, Consultant, Cardiff

In addition, I have asked Robin to undertake a further recruitment exercise to increase the breadth of coverage of the Board, and to encourage applications from under-represented groups. While the exercise is underway, the new Board will operate in shadow form, pending a full launch in the summer when it reaches full complement. The shadow Board’s inaugural meeting under Robin’s chairmanship will take place early next month. I have every confidence that once the Board is fully established it will enable us to deliver the vision of growing our industry in Wales by 30% by the year 2020, and I look forward to working with Robin and his colleagues to that end.

Robin Jones was appointed in July 2014, but it will be a full twelve months before the board is launched officially, so it seems there’s no hurry for wag there then.

Interesting that former Head Of Wag Food, Norma Barry is on the board, sorry another poor pun, as a consultant. I had a great deal of respect for Norma when she was in charge of food and was very sorry to see her leave that role. But if you search for Norma on LinkedIn you’ll find that Norma lists her appointment to this board two months ago………………………      



When’s A Journalist Not A Journalist?

14 Jan

I last posted on this topic on 8th December following my original post on 7th August. Sorry but I’m not offering prizes for guessing correctly why I’m now posting this question for the third time. Because guess what? Wag still cannot be bothered to answer my questions. But am I wrong? Have I made my questions too difficult for them? Well from this side that is certainly how it seems. Have wag and wag food something to hide? Well maybe. Has someone made the wrong decision and wag hasn’t the guts to back down? Or is wag guilty of digging a hole and then doesn’t know when to stop digging? In the real world they could have solved their error with a simple apology, but we mustn’t forget I’m asking wag food to explain themselves, which is not just proving difficult, just jolly impossible.

The main question I’ve been asking since August, is why after editing and publishing Welsh Country for over ten years, wag food have suddenly decided that I must now be classed as purely a ‘blogger’ and metaphorically sent to Coventry. Because as we all know quite clearly by now, the Welsh Government’s policy is not to engage with the blogging community. The fact that the Welsh Government consistently fail to engage with their own producers doesn’t appear to worry them either.
On 9th December I decided to try another tack. I, as a constituent,  wrote to one of my Regional Assembly Members, who happens to be our Deputy Food Minister. I fairly sure, that despite the government saying that food and farming are so vital to Wales we have neither a Farming nor Food Minister. So I wait impatiently for a reply, assuming wrongly that AM’s have a duty to respond to emails/letters in a set timescale, but seemingly they are under no statutory obligation to respond to correspondence within a certain time frame. I would have appreciated my Assembly Member, albeit being Regional and not directly voted in, exercising some common sense and to have dealt with my constituent query herself and responded in a timely manner. But unfortunately my Regional Assembly Member was unable to do either of these things for me – but I’ll save time and ignore the rudeness. So today, as I had not received a reply, I sent a reminder. Well guess what dear readers, I did get a reply today, but not from my Regional Assembly Member and our Deputy Minister, but from our Head of Food. Who says:

Thank you for your email dated 9 December 2014 to the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food regarding your recent communications with the Welsh Government, I have been asked to reply.
We responded to you on 10 November 2014 and 5 December 2014 on these matters and have nothing further to add to our previous replies on this issue. In the absence of any new information from you the Welsh Government will not be responding further to you on this topic. If you are still unhappy with my response, you can raise the matter with the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales

Now would I really be wasting so much time asking the same questions if wag food had answered them on 10/11 let alone on the 5/12? Of course not, that’s so pathetically stupid that I despair of this department. What are they trying to achieve? Being labelled a blogger means wag food have stopped me using the press office and taken me off their press mailing list, so should wag food ever send out press releases, I’ll not get them sent to me. My past PR experience tells me that the more journalists, writers you can get your news out too the better. There is no such thing as bad publicity, just a different way of getting the most out of it. But having said that I’ve never had to deal with a Government before, I’ve also dealt with professional people who have to earn their living by doing a good job and getting results. With government it seems ticking boxes is more a priority than getting message and news outside of their glass tower. Wag tells me to use their website which is the most difficult website I’ve been on of late to find information. Plus it’s time-consuming. Getting press releases is a basic tool for journalists, it’s how we can compile stories, features, but of course, I mustn’t forget that wag food say I’m a blogger, forgetting or ignoring that I’ve to put together 10 pages of Welsh food and drink for each Welsh Country issue and over 250 pages about Welsh Food  & Drink on the Welsh Country website  – gosh silly me.

I’m at a loss to understand this government and the food department, it would appear both have their own agenda and top of the list is Welsh Country, the only pan Wales magazine that covers in-depth Welsh food and drink. We’ll it must make sense to them, but not sure how.

My advice to the Welsh Government and wag’s food department is when in a hole, out your large spade down and stop digging……………..