Posts Tagged ‘food’

Yippee – Another Government Survey

04 Jul

Thanks to some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers for keeping me in the loop on yet another food survey. Apparently the Welsh Government Food Policy Unit has sent out a letter asking primary producers to participate in a telephone survey. The survey is being undertaken by Brookdale Consulting. Just to give you an idea here is part of their letter.

Research into levels of primary produce processed in Wales

In 2010 the Welsh Government undertook a survey to determine the levels of primary produce processed in Wales.

Welsh Government now wishes to update the 2010 baseline survey.  The results will be used to tailor Welsh Government support for the food and drink sector such that the maximum value is added to the Welsh economy.

The previous survey highlighted that most food and drink processors try to source Welsh produce whenever possible but that availability can be a problem. 

Quality was the most important factor for food processors followed by price, food origin, branding and distribution.  Challenges facing processors included regulation, competition and shortage of raw material.  Processors were split in their views on product origin with half seeing it as vital and half as of secondary importance.        

We are keen to update our understanding of the issues facing food and drink processors around sourcing raw material, importance of product origin, levels of processing activity in Wales and end markets for products. 

As far as I’m aware the food policy unit is part of Food, Fisheries and Market Development Division, generally known as the food dept and the last time I can remember the Food Policy Unit being mentioned was:  Food for Wales, Food from Wales 2010:2020 – A Food Strategy for Wales. At the time I was quite excited about this, except that planning 10 years ahead are only pie-in-the-sky. In reality can you seriously plan five years ahead and make any sense? Anyway the report was dreadfully dull, not really saying anything. The consultation process was once more a wag food box-ticking exercise only. Those of us that participated and dared to comment, and there was a considerable number of us, I wasn’t Billy-No-Mates there, but we were dutifully squashed, which is par for wag’s course. Maybe with recent staff changes in FFMDD this may not now be the case, but I’ve yet to met anyone whose confident about that.

The Miller Research Evaluation of the Fork2Fork campaign was also supposedly for primary producers, via farmers markets, farm shops and box schemes. I’m sure this evaluation was the Miller report had to be done to tick European/Government boxes that this project was government money ‘well spent’. Yes it will be more than interesting to read the report when it emerges and see the overlap and the difference in evaluation, but ……………….

One thing I am certain of though is that none of us knows how much this latest survey is costing and whether it will achieve value-for-money. Yes ok I can hear you chuckling on that one!! For the moment we must try and believe what we are told, that they wish to understand the issues facing food and drink processors around sourcing raw material, importance of product origin, levels of processing activity in Wales and end markets for products. However the proof of the pudding is………………………



Further Statement on Horsemeat In Wales

08 Mar

Written statement released today from Alun Davies AM, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes.

Following my written statement on the 26th February I would like to update members on the latest position on the contamination of beef products that first came to our attention on the 15th January.

My officials and I have consulted with other UK devolved administrations and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and I am now reassured that we understand the breadth and depth of the problem. Consequently, I now believe that we need to put in place mechanisms and structures that will allow us to isolate and manage the problem whilst at the same time moving to recover from the incident and to reassure the general public that the food chain is fundamentally safe and secure. There is also a need to reflect on the events of the last few weeks and I, as well as the FSA, will be thinking of the long term implications of this incident and how we have responded to it.

On Wednesday I met with senior enforcement and procurement officers from local government and the Welsh Local Government Association to hear first hand how they have been dealing with these matters. It is clear to me that there has been a great deal of commitment from the whole of the Welsh public sector to work with industry and laboratories to tackle this issue and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved. With over 5400 tests completed in six weeks and with more tests to come, this is indeed testimony to the commitment of the industry to address concerns as quickly as possible. It is also appropriate that I extend my own gratitude to the FSA, who have provided significant support and leadership in managing the situation.

I have agreed with the WLGA and the FSA that we will work together to develop a more rigorous testing regime for the Welsh public sector to underpin and secure public confidence in future procurement arrangements. This will include a robust testing regime, an examination of the control and length of supply chain together with raising the awareness of the legal responsibilities incumbent on the supply sector that will guard against food fraud and wider food contamination issues in the public services supply chain. We must ensure the integrity of our food and the public must have confidence in the food they are consuming.  Welsh local authorities will reassert to all food businesses that the responsibility for producing food that is safe and accurately labelled sits with each and every food business, whether primary producer, processor, wholesaler or retailer.

I have already made a commitment to a review of the enforcement measures available to us in Wales. I may also wish to expand this work to see how the Welsh Government and other institutions have reacted to this incident. I will make a further announcement on this matter in due course where I will provide details on the scope and terms of reference of this review.

This incident has clearly had, and will continue to have, a significant effect on consumer attitudes. The FSA’s recent consumer survey found that consumer confidence in processed meat products has fallen considerably which in turn has affected actual sales figures and the viability of some processing businesses.

In my view the Government has a responsibility to address the issue of consumer confidence and we will continue to support our meat industry and to rebuild confidence amongst consumers.  Last Wednesday I began this process by launching a poster campaign for Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef with Hybu Cig Cymru. On St David’s day I visited the Tesco store in Talbot Green to lend my support for the fantastic range of Welsh products available.

This has been a very difficult time for all aspects of the meat production industry and many people and businesses have suffered because of the potential negligence or criminality of a tiny minority. The Welsh Government will continue to support both the enforcement and regulatory regimes that are in place. We also continue to support the FSA and police investigations that are underway. We will now place our emphasis on rebuilding consumer confidence and putting in place measure to underpin that confidence.

So there you have the official version of how the Welsh Government are reacting to the horsemeat fiasco.

As you are aware I’m not impressed with HCC’s latest poster campaign, but it appears the Deputy Minster is, which is great news for HCC. Neither am I impressed that on St David’s Day our Deputy Minister visited a Tesco store and thought that worthy news to include in his statement. Well if I was in his shoes, heaven forbid I can hear you saying, I’d have visited as many independent butchers that I could, along with some farmers’ markets. Mr Davies’ team of civil servants must think his time is best spent supporting a large and powerful supermarket instead of those working at the tough end of the meat sector.……………………………


Welsh Food Festivals Monitoring & Evaluation

13 Aug

I was told during my visit to the Really Wild Food Festival on 28th July that two people from Welsh Government (Food) were in attendance. When  Ian and I checked this out, that wasn’t true, the people quizzing the producers were in fact employed by Miller Research. In any case they were not badged up and the implication was that they were actually from the government.  So to clarify what precisely was going on I sent some questions through under the Freedom Of Information Act, Reference ATISN 6298. Follows are questions and response shown in full:

1.   The total cost of the tender submission.

2.   Clarification that Miller Research will be attending the 33 Welsh Government funded festivals.

3.   Clarification that the tender submission the Welsh Government required for this work.

4.   What organisations within the Government framework were invited to tender.

I am enclosing some of the information you requested, attached as Annex 1.  I have concluded, however, that some of the information you have requested is exempt from disclosure under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Information accessible to applicant by other means). If you know where to look – Kath.


1.    The total cost of the tender submission is £42,301.25 (ex VAT).  This includes all costs to attend Food Festivals, producing individual reports for each Festival attended and a final report looking at the Food Festival Grant Support as a whole.

2.    Miller Research will be attending 32 of the 33 Welsh Government funded food festivals. Miller Research was unable to attend the Gorseinon Food and Drink Festival because of the timings of the tender submission and the awarded outcome.

Specification for the Monitoring and Evaluation of Food Festivals Supported by the Welsh Government

The successful contractor, now known as Miller Research, must develop simple reporting forms to record site visits.

The visit will culminate in a report of activity assessing performance against the criteria set for all Food and Drink Festivals. Ensuring organisers are compliant to the grant support offered by the Welsh Government.

Individual written reports will be expected of each Festival visited, there will be a need to be objective, consistent, robust, concise and vigilant at all times to ensure fair assessment of each is undertaken.

FMDD (Food, Market & Development Division) require a clear measurement of the Grant Offer provided to each Festival against the criteria set and the application form submitted. In addition to this measurement FMDD would like the following evaluated:

Sustainable Strategies – would the Festival continue without FMDD support?

Is the event considered to be an exemplar to the Promotion of Welsh Produce to visitors in and outside Wales?

Quality of the event Involvement of the local business community Involvement of Food Tourism Providers – are they Championing Local Producers?

Number of Food & Drink Producers and who these producers are, including numbers of Welsh Producers Confirmation that the Festival organisers had used the Welsh Government financial contribution in the manner outlined in their application.

Miller Research will need to complete an Annual Report based on site visits undertaken during this financial year as well as information which has been supplied by festival organisers. This report will need to measure the impact of the Grant Support as a whole and the effects should the Grant Support cease. The evaluation will need to focus on the Support provided by Welsh Government and whether it should continue and clear rationales provided. 

3.    For the organisations within the Government framework which were invited to tender, I have concluded that the information is exempt from disclosure under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Information accessible to applicant by other means).  The tender document lists the organisations which were invited to tender and can be easily accessed via an internet search. 

I hope that those of you regularly attending festivals now have a better idea of Wag’s latest ‘effort’ to supposedly help food festivals. Far be it for me to take any credit for this happening, but it is something I have mentioned on a regular basis for the last four of five years!!!! Although I haven’t been told so yet, I’m sure Miller Research will be thrilled to bits with me finding them more work with wag. I can only suggest you read what wag are supposed to be looking for on this latest visitation of their food festivals and you get your points and views across. You can then keep your fingers crossed that your views will eventually get put in front of wag, discussed and acted upon and that nothing will be lost in translation, if you understand me…………

Although I will still be attending some wag funded food festivals, I will no longer be blogging about them. My view being that I’d hate to hinder, or maybe even more importantly, help Miller Research any further with their latest job of wag food work.


Welsh Food Festival Funding – Who Knows How It Actually Works?

18 Jul

I sent questions through about food festival budget for 2012/13, about those festivals who were unsuccessful in securing funding
1. Can you clarify if any of the unsuccessful applicants listed below were then able to receive WG funding from another budget?


Food & Drink Festivals who were unsuccessful in securing funding
Portmeirion Food Festival


Carmarthen Xmas Food Fest


Chapter Festive Fair


Get Welsh in Swansea


Llanelli Food Festival


Bedwellty Christmas Food Fair


Swansea First

Not Specified

Broneirion Easter Food Festival


Real Food Fete


The Big Welsh Bite


The Welsh Menu


Haverfordwest, Beer, Cider & LP


Brecon Beacons Summer Fayre


Crymych Food Festival


Gwyl Fwyd Blas Tywi


The Great British Cheese Festival


Gower Festival of Food


Fishguard Autumn Fair


International Sheepdog Trials


Response to question 1.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “No other funding mechanism within the Food, Marketing and Development Division would be applicable. It would fall to the organiser to seek other funding mechanisms.

2. Can you explain why there is no figure against Swansea First festival? Surely this event was not allowed to submit an application for funding without stating an amount?

Response to question 2.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The information submitted for Swansea First Festival was incomplete and no figure was provided by the application form closing date.”

3. Could you explain as to how the decision was arrived at to award Pembrokeshire Fish Week £31,671.00 for a food festival which took place over one day at Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire as against Really Wild Food Festival, Pembrokeshire being awarded £11,963.77as two day festival and Abergavenny being awarded £46,800.00 for a 2/3 day festival. What criteria were used to make these judgements?

Response to question 3.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “There is no recorded information to state specifically how application forms are appraised. Each application form is unique, and is judged on its own merits. One size does not fit all.”

Follow on questions:

1. Who is responsible for attending all the Welsh Government’s funded food festivals to ensure their criteria are being adhered too?

2. Is this duty being undertaken by WG food department, or has this been farmed out by WG to an agency?
3. It the work has gone to an agency, which one and at what cost per festival?
4. If this work has gone to an agency, when was this work tendered for? Which companies applied?

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:
“Miller Research Evaluation Consulting ensure food festival funding criteria is adhered to on behalf of the Welsh Government.

“The invite to tender for the evaluation was issued to all relevant qualifying organisations within the Government framework, in accordance with fair and open competition. Only one response was received.

“The tender submission does not break down costs per festival attendance.”

Well I hope that you feel that sending these questions through was worth the effort – I wish I thought it was, but of course I don’t.  One size has never, ever, fitted all – touch of the patronising there methinks – one size has never fitted all even in the weird world of government, but are we not entitled to know how this festival funding procedure works? It is public money that is being spent after all, but seemingly not, according to wag. Is it any wonder that so many of us feel that it’s a favouritism, rather than a framework system that is working in government? Transparency in government and in the civil service does not appear to be with us yet!!!

What I do find totally amazing is that in the time of a tough ongoing recession, that there are companies on wags’ framework or ‘favoured list’, but only one of them wanted the work apart …… and yes, now you know the winning company was again Miller Research…………………………………….

I’ve now asked which companies are on the ‘favoured/ framework’ because I’m intrigued to know which companies are so busy, that they don’t need or require extra work. If you have ideas why any other companies wouldn’t have gone for this, do tell me. Would they really think it was a waste of time them bothering?




Update On The Welsh Food Summit

18 Jul

Published in full is the written statement on the Welsh Food Summit and Workshop – 12th July 2012, held at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes states:

On Thursday July 12 I convened a Welsh Food Conference at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Llanarthne. I am very grateful to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales for agreeing to attend the conference and for giving the opening address. His Royal Highness has been a consistent and strong supporter of food producers in Wales and his vision for a sustainable and successful food sector is one that is both compelling and persuasive.
The Welsh Government is committed to doing all we can to deliver a thriving and sustainable food sector that is able to support and sustain employment and prosperity across the whole of Wales. I am confident that there is a long term viable future for our food and drink industry but aware that there are challenges as well as opportunities.

The purpose of last week’s conference was to bring together people from across the different parts of the food supply chain to discuss how the Welsh Government can strengthen its work to support food production in Wales. I am anxious to listen to key people in the industry and ensure that their views shape the future development of the Welsh Government’s approach.
There are opportunities for change now – arising from the latest round of CAP reform and the need for a new Rural Development Plan beyond 2013. The Food and Farming Sector Panel is providing the Government with advice on taking forward economic development policy and I will focus during the summer on how I expect the Government to deliver its food strategy. I will be making a further written statement in the autumn which captures the views of the conference and delivers this vision for Wales.
As you are aware I was not invited to this food summit, apparently if I was a part of the Royal Welsh Press Corps I would have been! Not quite sure why I couldn’t have been invited as a member of the audience, but I’ll leave that with you to ponder on………..
I’ve asked who was invited, but wag could not reveal this information, as according to them this is against Data Protection issue. . I’ve now taken further advice and submitted an FOI to see if this is a secret that can be uncovered.

My concern is that Mr Davies is talking to only ‘key’ people in the food industry, as I guess he was talking to ‘key’ people at his Dairy Summit held a few weeks ago.To me this seems to read that this statement does not cover micro and very small producers, they can never be called ‘key’. Of course they don’t have a recognised voice either, so how does government know their views and concerns? The fact that you don’t have a voice is of course down to you as producers to sort, but email me if you need more information. My interest as always is our Best Of Welsh producers and they deserve to be consulted and heard too.

I’d be interested in your views on this. If you wish to leave a comment be assured that you can, and will, remain anonymous.


Funding For The Three Food Centres In Wales

31 May

The Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes and Minister for Business, Enterprise,
Technology and Science have agreed to support the three Food Centres in Wales for the period from January to March 2012 at a rate of £35,000 per centre. The Ministers have also agreed the support the centres for the following three financial year
from 2012 to 2015 at a total cost of £1,560,000.

Statement of information

The Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes and Minister for Business, Enterprise,
Technology and Science are being asked to authorise payments and commitmentsdue to individuals and organisations underapproved programmes of activity. These activities relate to the provision of support to the Food & Drink sector by engaging strategic partners in the delivery of new product development, technical advice, the lease of processing halls and incubator units, laboratory services, test kitchens, sensory analysis and associated activities.

I’ve just been alerted to this news by a trader, but it was news to me as I’d heard nothing about it. So I thought I’d see what was
happening at Horeb which is literally just down the road from me, only to find I couldn’t access their website as the links were broken. I know many producers, especially in Ceredigion, that could find many uses for £35k. I assume Horeb is still being funding by Ceredigion County Council and now intrigued to know what Horeb plans to spend it’s latest funding on………………


Food, Tourism And Construction Panels Revealed

01 Nov

I have recently been informed by the Welsh Government on the three panels they have formed to advise them on business policy for the tourism, construction and food and farming industries.

The food and farming panel will include Heather Jenkins, director of agricultural strategy at Waitrose; Kevin Morgan, professor of European regional development at Cardiff University; Ieuan Edwards, managing director of Edwards of Conwy; Sue Evans, director of policy at the Wales Countryside Land and Business Association; Dai Davies, chair of Hybu Cig Cymru; Simon Wright, chef and writer; Melanie Leech, director general of the Food and Drink Federation; Mary James, director of the National Farmers Union Cymru; and Nick Fenwick, director of agricultural policy at the Farmers Union of Wales. It will be chaired by Haydn Edwards, the former principal of Coleg Menai.

The tourism panel will include Mike Morgan, proprietor of Llansantffraed Court Hotel in Abergavenny; Menna Heulyn, co-owner of the Harbour Master Hotel, Aberaeron; Paul Lewin, managing director, of Ffestiniog Railway; Sir Brooke Boothby, owner of Fonmon Castle and Fontygary Caravan Park; Philip Lay, retail director of SA Brain; Manon Williams, director client services at CMI; and Margaret Llewelyn OBE, former managing director of Dragon Shipping Line. It will be chaired by Dan Clayton Jones, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The construction panel will feature David Harris, divisional managing director of Cowlin Construction; Ann-Marie Smale, director of Powell Dobson Architects; Chris Jofeh, director of Arup; Danny Fellows, director of DFA International; and Rhodri-Gwynn Jones of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Wales). It will be chaired by David Joyce, chief operating officer of Vinci PLC.

As the food panel will be of obvious interest to our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, we sent this info to them. Well as our busy producers catch up on their mail boxes, our phones and emails have been very busy! The unanimous message they would like me to send to the Welsh Government is – where is the voice for the food producers?

Is Ieuan Edwards of Conwy, a well-established True Taste Winner, able to talk on behalf of all producers, whatever their company size? Or is it safe to rely on Simon Wright, last year’s True Taste Champion, to be aware of the needs and wants of our producers? I’m sure you have already spotted the True Taste link and certainly the government link, but where is the representation for the dairy industry? Where is the representation for the horticultural industry? How does anybody make representation to these august bodies?  

So is this more food for thought, or is it yet more food producer frustration?


Pembrokeshire Show – Food Stands

11 Aug

Can anyone confirm stand price in the Food Centre Wales area, or any other food area at the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Show?

I’ve been quite surprised by the price I’ve been told and would like it verified by anoyone else attending, as it doesn’t make much sense. The price I’ve been given is £60 plus VAT for about a 9m frontage, this includes a pre-show vehicle pass, but no vehicle pass or day ticket for the actual trading day! How can you possibly trade if you don’t have a vehicle pass? As traders always have lots of equipment to bring with them, where will they be parked?  

My memory could be failing, that’s quite possible, but I thought food traders attending last year under the Pembrokeshire Produce Direct banner; paid £100.00 inc VAT for a three day’s trading. That price included daily vehicle passes, as well as daily tickets for two people. But this year it appears to be a different scenario and I cannot believe any event expects traders to pay to come in and park out with the public when they have already paid for a tradestand. The Pembrokeshire website says tickets are £14.00 per day, so for two traders to run one stand it’s an extra £28.00, plus stand fee, plus travel, which will be around £100.00 for the day. Gosh, you’ll have to sell an enormous amount of produce to break even, let alone make some money.      

I’m also not sure if Pembrokeshire Direct are running their food area again this year but it will be interesting to compare prices and what they are offering. I’m sure a producer will confimr or deny what I’ve been told. I cannot understand the confusion here unless Food Centre Wales has just forgotten to send the traders additional vehicle passes and tickets out yet ……………………..



WAG Axe Falls On Aberystwyth Christmas Fair

02 Jun

I had a phone call yesterday from a producer asking why Aber Fair had been axed. He wasn’t one of our Best Of Welsh & Borders members, so wasn’t aware of the furore that’s been going on and the difficulties we’ve had even obtaining this year’s dates from the Welsh Assembly Government, Wag. Apparently he’d read a piece in his local paper and was very upset that this fair was not now going ahead.

Ceredigion Council have said that as Wag are now not going to fund the £4,200 that the event got last year, it could not go ahead in it’s current form.  Wag has funded this event for eleven years. In 08/09 Aber received £3,840 and in 09/10 £4.000. However this year Aber has fallen foul of Wag’s new ruling that states: ‘all events supported will have food activity as the core’. Culture, tourism, arts, crafts and Christmas markets now do not qualify for Wag support. The Council state that last year’s poor weather badly affected the Christmas Fair, but in 2009 the event attracted over 4,000 people. I really do disagree with the Council on numbers for 09, how, if the event is free, do they get even a rough number count? Am I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering where Aber managed to find parking for such a number of cars, it’s difficult enough on an ordinary Saturday!! However I’m told that of 46 stalls, only eight were non-food. So I’ll continue to stick to what I have been saying for some time which is that that craft stalls do add interest to a food event. The longer people stay at an event the better. Of course I can understand that Wag feel that are then supporting craft, but maybe a compromise is that crafters pay more for their stands. But to drop support for this event because of 8 craft stalls is childish and short sighted and is certainly not supporting food and producers.

Whilst this dispute was raging Ceredigion AM Elin Jones slammed Wag’s decision saying that the festival gave important support to local producers. She then went on the political bandwagon, trying to shame Labour on cutting back support for local food festivals. Well I’m not in total agreement there but do accpet that I haven’t all the facts but it’s not for the lack of trying, is it? I’ve been asking for a list of the festivals Wag were supporting in January and was told I couldn’t have the list until the end of March. Then, at end of March I was told I couldn’t have the list now as we were in ‘a pre-election period’. So my thinking is that this list was already done and agreed, and who was the Minister responsible for signing this off? Step forward Elin Jones…………

We then had our elections on 5th May and I received Wag’s funded festival list on 13th May. I’m not sure if you think in just over a week; Wag started from scratch with the new Labour team, made their decisions, informed the organisers and then told the media. I don’t think so as the organsiers were told I believe on the 6th May. I think all decisions were made whilst Elin was still in ministerial power and were rubber-stamped by Labour, but we’ll see what else we can find out about this………………………

Of course budgets have to be slashed, there isn’t a choice because as a nation we are broke|. But who agrees to Conwy and Abergavenny getting the same amounts as last year, no cuts for them let alone even a reduction for two huge festivals who can get sponsors in, whilst Aber gets axed for £4k? Has Wag changed it’s mind about getting festivals to be self-supporting? It must have, because otherwise wouldn’t these two have had their funding requests reduced at least?   

Wag have apparently responded by saying that with a reduced budget and the evaluation of food festivals taken over last two years, then to make the best use of resources it was decided that events where food was not the core activity would not receive funding. For those of you not up to speed, last year Miller Research from Abergavenny, were asked to visit all Wag supported festivals and evaluate what they were doing. Most organisers I have spoken to have received their copy of the Miller report, but I’m still waiting for Wag to send through my copy. I have been told that Crymych Food & Craft Fair also fell foul of the new no -craft rule so that event is also not running this year. Lampeter was also told by Miller that they had too many craft stands, even though the craft stands are set in a different part on the Lampeter University grounds, plus a new festival in Newcastle Emlyn was told ‘no craft or no funding’.

I also wonder if this ‘no craft or no funding’ was made clear at the organisers meeting in February, otherwise surely this issue could have been clarified and sorted then and not left until now. I’m sure Jan Fenner who organises the Aber fairs and markets would have been there, but why that didn’t happen is rather puzzling.

Ceredigion County Council are appealing Wag’s decision and I look forward not only to hearing the outcome, but an explanation too!!!

Food Festival funding has been a hot topic on welshfoodbites so  please check out posts around March this year for more background.


Success For Welsh Food At Smallholder

23 May

Congratualtions to Steve Shearman from Farmer’s Markets in Wales, who put on a great show in the old Food Hall at the Smallholder show this weekend. As already posted, I had expected to find the producers in the new Food Hall, but was relieved to find that sector busy and some relatively producers on Sunday when I visited.

What really made me very angry was the fact that this event received no funding from the WAG, the Welsh Assembly Government.  I’ve no idea who told me, but I knew that Steve attended the festival organisers meeting in February, but I couldn’t work out why. The funding for this event has not, to my knowledge, ever come from Wag’s festival funded budget.  If I’m wrong, then it’s been left of the list I have received from Wag for the last four years. So as this funding has always come from another budget, which budget was it from? My next question is why has this funding been withdrawn and who made that decision?

I’m not sure whether you would label this event as a Food Festival or a Farmer’s Market, but the label is irrelevant. What is relevant and is very important, is that thisevent was actually a celebration of Welsh food at its best and surely this is what Wag (Food) should be promoting.  This year Wag’s criteria for festivals they are supporting is that they ‘will have food activity as the core. Therefore events such as Agricultural Shows with a food hall or events that use a food hall as an additional attraction will not normally be eligible’. What normally be eligible means must qualify as ‘Wag speak’ which makes us none the wiser…………….so can anyone clarify that statement please. I feel that maybe it means that Wag will continue to do as is pleases, regradless of the consequences.

As an example of my confusion, can I remind you that I attended Saundersfoot in March this year and counted 18 food stands, plus a cookery demo area and 9 craft stands. This festival got funding again this year, around £8k, but according to Wag they should have had 20 food producers. Did anyone attned from Wag and if so does that mean this funding is now reduced? Saundersfoot have also been awarded funding for 2012 but with a lesser amount of £5,006.35.

But back to the Smallholder event which had over 40 of our best producers on show, got no financial support at all, due to Wag’s change of criteria. Wag’s other big push as far as food festivals are concerned, is that huge prominence is made of True Taste Food and Drink Awards winners. I won’t bore you again with my views on True Taste, but check out my post on 22nd November and let me know what you think. The financial headache that no funding caused this event meant that stand prices had to be doubled, bad news for the producers in this economic climate, but there was absolutely no choice if this was to go ahead. I cannot imagine the Smallholder without Steve Shearman’s market and our offering to our visitors is bog-standard fast food vans with little if any local  food.

This event was a success despite Wag’s childish behavouir, they even had a covered area on one side where Steve had put seating so people could enjoy some great coffee, food, ice-cream and a chance to rest and chat with family and friends.

Carwyn Jones, our First Minister says, “I am delighted the Welsh Assembly Government has been able to continue to support food and drink festivals across Wales.”

Well Mr Jones and Wag, I’m not happy that I don’t understand what has happened to the Smallholder funding and why Wag (Food) don’t put their onus on Welsh food first and True Taste second – if you can improve the standard and variety of local producers you’ll of course improve the entries for the True Taste. Please explain to me why this event had to run without financial support from Wag bearing in mind RWAS say 26,026 attended over the two days. This is yet another instance where Wag need to wake-up and understand what is actually happening in Wales with our food producers.