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Posts Tagged ‘local food’

Autumn Pembrokeshire Food & Drink Evening

27 Nov

Last night, Tuesday 26th November was apparently the correct night for the above, despite the invite saying Wednesday November 26th. Of course regular visitors to welshfoodbites will be aware that Ian and I were not allowed press tickets to attend and were told that this meeting was purely for Pembrokeshire producers, the public and press were not invited.

The evening agenda was as follows:

Food Rating Scheme – what does it mean for food and drink producers. This presentation and Q&A was taken by Peter Cole senior EHO officer.

This was followed by ‘New food and drink strategy for Wales 2014-20’ taken by Keith Smyton, Head of Food Division WG – your chance to have your say.

This was followed by Total Food Marketing mentoring support opportunities and AOB.

Well the feedback I’ve had today is that the main concern of producers, the ‘New food and drink strategy for Wales 2014-20’ was a total nothingness, ‘your chance to have your say’ was not at all accurate. Mr Smyton appears to have had his hands tied and nothing can be said from wag food until Alun Davies the Minister for Natural Resources gives his speech on Monday at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair. It is interesting though that comments from some producers said that Mr Smyton indicated that he wanted this consultation some time ago. But can’t confirm this ‘gossip’ for sure as I say I was banned.

Now you’ll all be delighted to hear that Ian and I have not been banned from this meeting – surprise, surprise! In fact the wag food team have been most helpful even down to answering my question as to whether an official press release will be issued. You’ll be pleased to know that an official press release will be issued and all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers will get it emailed to them as soon as possible.

From our understanding and chat from producers, which might or might not be true, the Food Team in Aberystwyth has been transformed with very few of the old guard left in place. I can already here some of you cheering, but until I know for sure, who’s in, who’s out, and who’s doing what role, I’ll wait and see.

We can only hope that this all bodes well to a more open and more commercially thinking food department that is going to listen to all sides and become constructive open and fair to all, whatever the size of the company. I hope that Mr Smyton’s hands are not permanently tied which will prevent him doing his job and as already said, I’m still hopeful he can help all Welsh food producers and food media too.

In the meantime I can only hope and sit on the fence – which is not my style.

So I’m grateful I didn’t miss much, instead Ian and I were invited, yes guys, another invite, to Cardiff by the Countryside Alliance for their Game-To-Eat night. There we had Welsh chef Dudley Newbury and his team cook some superb canapés all using game. A brilliant evening plus we met many people from the hotel and restaurant trade along with some of our Assembly Members. A great opportunity for Ian and I to speak with many that have influence. It was a positive evening all round that really did show that we have wonderful restaurants in Wales that want to promote local food and some Assembly Members that are also think along the same lines.

If more in this industry stand up and be counted, maybe that is the only way we can change things for the better.

 
 

Farmers’ Markets – Questions Asked In The Senedd

15 Nov

Just for your information, these questions were sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers yesterday so they have the report before it goes up on welshfoodbites.

On 13th November we noted that farmers’ markets were a subject of questions, and knowing this will be of interest – or annoyance here is the relevant section for you to read:

9. What measures can the Welsh Government take to further improve the support available for farmers’ markets? OAQ (4)0079(NRF)

Alun Davies

The Welsh Government is committed to supporting and promoting Welsh food and drink through a number of measures, including food tourism and festivals. Julie Morgan

I thank the Minister for his response. Does the Minister have any analysis or market research of the customers who use farmers’ markets, such as the ones in Rhiwbina, Whitchurch, Riverside and Roath—which are the farmers’ markets in Cardiff? Does he believe that there are any price barriers for some customers in accessing locally sourced organic food?

Alun Davies

I think that there are issues in some parts of Wales about accessing local fresh food. This may be the case for organic food as well, but it is certainly the case for local fresh food. The Government’s renewed action plan for food will be launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair. There will be a section of that that addresses the issues that the Member has raised in terms of farmers’ markets, as well as the connection between the consumer and the producers and processors of foods. That is a connection that is essential for us to make as a country, a society and a community. I would invite all Members, on all sides of the Chamber, to look at what the Government is proposing to do to strengthen those links and to join us in an active dialogue about how we can strengthen the food chains that currently exist in Wales and ensure that people—whatever their income bracket and wherever they live in Wales—have access to great, fresh food produced in Wales.

Mohammad Asghar

Minister, in August of this year, it was reported that Chepstow town council was providing incentives for traders, in the hope of reviving the town’s farmers’ market. These incentives included no charge being made for trading licence fees, pitch fees and electricity. What further incentives is the Welsh Government considering to promote and extend farmers’ markets in Wales?

Alun Davies

In terms of the promotion of farmers’ markets, the movement is not something that has been the creature of Government—it is not something that is top down. I would like to see Government and local authorities promoting and supporting the ability of local producers and others to develop the farmers’ market movement and the wider local marketing and purchase of food across the whole of Wales. I would welcome local authorities taking such steps and, certainly, if any barriers exist at Welsh Government level, I would be very happy to look at how we can remove those barriers.

Lindsay Whittle

Minister, you have touched on some of what I was going to cover in my question. We talk about fuel poverty in this Chamber, but there is good-quality food poverty as well. You have rightly mentioned that the food in farmers’ markets is organic, it is fresher, it has travelled less and the profits stay in Wales. There are many people on benefits, Minister, who cannot afford to buy it, because it is too expensive. You subsidise food festivals in Wales; why do you not subsidise farmers’ markets?

Alun Davies

There are legal issues with some of those matters, but let us try to overcome issues where they exist and look at what we want to achieve. When you see the strategy that I am proposing for the development of the food programme from the Welsh Government, in all its different elements, you will see an action plan that addresses issues of production, of primary production, of processing, of promotion, of manufacture and of the links with the consumer—social as well as health and education. I hope that, in developing a holistic approach to food policy, what we will be doing is helping to create the links that you describe, with which I very much agree, and doing so in a way that strengthens the production of food and the access to consumption of food, which is of high quality, across the whole of Wales.

 

Well, where do I start? After reading this I feel like Alice in Wonderland or Alice stuck down a rabbit hole. Little of this makes any sense to me and as I reckon I’m involved in the Welsh food industry I’m worried and annoyed in equal measure. Now let me say that I didn’t think our Welsh farmers markets were organic. If that’s the case then that message has been lost on me – organic? I thought we were talking about local food for local people. As fork2fork ‘AWARENESS’ which has cost us to date bang on £900k, why haven’t our Assembly Members, at the very least, got this ‘awareness’ message? So I’ll award another black mark to fork2fork because if they haven’t been able to get the message to our Assembly Members, who are so easy to target at the Senedd, then what realistic hope is there that fork2fork have managed to get their awareness message to even a proportion of the Welsh public? Well I think you have the answer to that one in the questions that have been asked, haven’t you?

Much is made by some Assembly Members about farmers’ market being expensive, so if that’s their take on it, it is yet another black mark to fork2fork because shouldn’t part of their ‘awareness’ campaign being to get the message out that you can shop well and with good local quality at your farmers’ market? Should they have said that the money then stays in the county and in Wales – unlike supermarket shopping, money from which rarely stops in the UK let alone in Wales?

I’m intrigued to hear that: However, state aid regulations prohibit support to be given directly to individual farmers’ markets. We are anxious to support the direct link between producers and consumers.

I’m not aware exactly what the Minister means by ‘state aid regulations’, so I asked for the definitive answer from the Press Office.    

I thought the Minister was meaning that markets are classed as making a profit, so they don’t qualify for funding, but if that’s the case how does funding for festivals which make a profit, then work? So sorry I’m confused, but will clarify when I can, because as it stands it makes no sense to me.

Much song and dance has been made by our Minister about our current Food Plan being dumped and that another was then being introduced. We have been told, as the Senedd has also been told, that the Minister is keen to get the views of producers of all sizes from across Wales and will arrange discussion groups – as happened with the last Food Plan. The sad thing is, again in my opinion is that wag food went through these same  motions, they ticked their important box and went ahead – seemingly ignoring the voices of many producers who said at the time that a 10 Year plan would not work. Well done guys we’ve been proved right now as the latest Minster has now thrown that plan out now. And now the Minister says:

The Government’s renewed action plan for food will be launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair.

Well Minster it seems déjà vu is my response to you. Needless to say, although I’m on RWAS press list I’ve heard nothing from them about the Minister’s forthcoming announcement and neither have I heard anything from the Press Office or from wag food either.

In terms of the promotion of farmers’ markets, the movement is not something that has been the creature of Government—it is not something that is top down. 

I’m also furious on this comment too. Just because the government hasn’t created farmers’ markets, it doesn’t give the Minister, or his government, an opt-out clause. Their job is promoting our local food – end of story. Don’t you dare come up with ‘the government hasn’t created markets’ as it seems your washing your hands on them as they’re not a government creation. In another question to the Minister about Welsh Red Meat, he was pleased to announce that the government is helping HCC with trips to push Welsh lamb to the USA,  Canada, China and Russia. So I’m horrified that the Minister doesn’t seem to bear any responsibility that through his government and through Europe, FBA/Fork2fork have taken £900k to promote markets, box schemes and farm shops, yet few in these sectors are doing even reasonably well.

I’ll be interested in your views on this although one comment has already come in overnight and posted elsewhere about these questions.

 
 

How Do Welsh Food Festivals Promote & Market Themselves?

17 Oct

Well my quick answer is that many don’t manage promotion very well. You might well say – so what does that matter to me as a producer? – well it really does matter to every trader attending. Let me throw a question to anyone wanting a tradestand at a food festival. Do you ever ask the organiser what promotion & marketing are they doing for their festival before you part with your hard-earned money? I’m guessing the answer is no,and you just assume they’ll do something, but you’re more concerned on whether you’ll get a stand at all and where you want to be sited. This is what I’m told by many of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and I do listen carefully to what they tell me. So I can understand this, as producers have so much on their minds and so little time to get even their essential jobs completed.

So let me explain where I, as a journalist with a love of local food, stand. Many of the food festivals are funded from wag and at some stage I get a list from wag giving me a list of food festivals they are supporting that year. A success for me to crow about is that now I also get told how much each festival receives! That took a great deal of effort to get that, but I did and I think those amounts are helpful not only for me, but for traders too. Ian then talks to the various organisers during the year, obviously to see if we can get them advertising with us, but can you guess what many of them say? ‘That there’s no advertising budget this year’. Of course we have to accept that, we’re in a competitive market after all and it’s possible that they are using their local paper or even local radio. But I think it’s a pity that you as producers attending, are not told how a particular festival will be getting thousands of the people you need into their event.

So having to accept, with great reluctance of course, that some festivals will not be advertising in Welsh Country magazine, as a foodie journalist I do expect to get at least one press release about each festival. As I’ve worked in PR I know that it is worth sending lots of press releases out because you can never tell how much coverage you ‘might just get without placing an advert! Plus with the ease and speed of email why not send out to lots and lots of people? Yet out of the 33 festivals that wag are supporting this year, I’ve had only seven festivals send me through even a basic press release. As some of those were advertising with us anyway, our team would have pushed and pushed for us to be sent as many press releases as possible because they would all be put up on welshcountry.co.uk. Certainly if space was available, one would also go in the appropriate issue of the magazine too. This along with social media is part of the service package we offer to help promote their festival; in fact it is what we do for anyone advertising with us. I must at this point also confess that if we get a press release from a food festival not advertising with us, they go straight in my bin or my deleted box. This is because our company policy is to help and promote any advertiser that is supporting us.

My other grumble is that if we decide to visit a festival then I want to be able to easily find a website that has the details of all the producers attending on it. Annoyingly this doesn’t always happen, but it highlights another opportunity lost by the organisers and some promotion lost for you as traders.

Obviously there are exceptions to my list of grumbles, some festivals are very switched on and use e-newsletters, have super websites, which are regularly updated and make full use of social media. Over the years I have discussed food festivals with wag but have been repeatedly told that wag can’t ‘ask’ organisers to do these basic tasks, let alone insist that they do. Well I totally disagree with wag’s attitude, because if promotion and marketing were listed as one of their criteria and the festival didn’t get paid unless they did that, then it would be done and be helpful to many of us. Remove wag’s financial carrot and the donkey must go without. It amazes me that wag can insist that everything a festival produces must be bilingual, regardless of whether the bulk of your audience is English speaking, but wag cannot push organisers to do basic PR & Marketing.

My main argument is that there is no co-operation. I appreciate that the following comments don’t apply to all festivals as there are exceptions.  Anecdotally Welsh Country offered three wag funded food festivals a 32 page festival booklet produced and printed at no cost to the festival with advertising paying for the production and printing. Unbelievably for various reasons, all three rejected the offer. Why? Various reasons, one being the committee decided against it. But we are still puzzled that a no-cost offer was turned down.  We are astonished that festivals shouldn’t want offers like this. Add to this the fact that local businesses want to work with festivals, but some festivals appear not to want to use this free resource either. The tin lid on this long list of grumbles is the complete jobs- worth attitudes of some local councils. I am constantly complaining that signage is a problem, but also realise that many of the issues are not the fault of the festival organisers, but the local highways department. The local or county councils economic development team supposedly want to help local businesses and therefore allow and in many cases help local food festivals, but then the highways department stop signage preventing the economic development department doing their job and hindering local businesses in the process. On a positive note let me give the example of brilliant Council co-operation work, then look no further than Caerphilly, who at any of their festivals co-operate, sign well and all with a smile too! But before the cynics amongst you think I’m praising one of our advertisers, on this occasion I’m not!!!

My suggestion after ranting away about wag’s archaic system is that if you are unsure whether to apply to a festival, even after chatting to fellow traders, then why not ask the organiser how they are going to get the thousands of punters that you guys all need, into their event. Their answer will surely help……..

 
 

‘A Sense Of Place’ For Welsh Food………

17 Apr

Just to keep you updated, follows is an extract from press release received from Wag on 30th January about their support for food festivals.

Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries said, “Each year food festivals in Wales contribute millions of pounds to the economy and are a key element in promoting Wales’ burgeoning food culture and giving visitors a sense of place’. Large or small, they have their own distinct character, but with one common thread – to bring to the public’s attention the fantastic array of food and drink produced in Wales.”

The press release ended by saying:
Any financial support provided by FMDD will be limited to that which is necessary to achieve the overall objective of providing capacity building opportunities for food & drink producers from Wales as well as contributing to a broadened & strengthened rural economy”.

Well this got me thinking, or fuming, because basically I’m not sure what this press release means. Initially I would think building opportunities for food and drink producers from Wales is spot on, until I get complaints from producers saying that some festival organisers, give priority to producers from outside Wales.  But its not just a priority in allowing them tradestand space, but often they get the best sites too! So how does that work? Especially considering that this isn’t just happening at the larger, or let’s say Wag’s ‘Big Three’, Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff that allow all comers in from the UK, but those that I’d class as only small to medium size events. When I have raised these issues with Wag, I’ve been told that as this funding is from European money, all
tradestands must be accepted.

But if you’re a visitor to Wales and go along to one of our food festivals, where do you expect the food to have come from, the Isle of Wight, Scotland, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire? Of course not. ‘A sense of place’ for our visitors has to mean local food, food sourced here in Wales from our superb artisan producers. Isn’t that what you’d expect too?

So why then does Wag’s press release appear to say that they are backing our food producers all the way? That
is certainly not what I hear day after day so eiother Wag is wrong or our producers are. After talking contstantly to our Best If Welsh & Borders producers, I certainly know which I believe.

 
 

25 Mile, Cardigan – Great Concept – But Check When Food Served

16 Apr

On Saturday I was driving back home from Pembrokeshire and called into Cardigan to pay a further visit to the 25 Mile establishment. It’s about a three or four weeks since I last found this place and readers, it did impress me! So much so that I was asking people if they’d been, thinking I was the only one that had been missing out, but no everyone I spoke to had never visited it because they knew nothing about it!!!

So then Kath,m ever the professional, goes into her PR mode and explains that their principle is to source products from within a 25 mile radius as the crow flies, bearing in mind there are always exceptions like coffee. Actually it was their coffee supplier, Preseli Coffee, who told me about it and as I rate their Preseli Coffee enormously, that was sufficient encouragement for me to track down 25 Mile Cardigan. So my first visit was a huge success, wonderful food, great service,

I loved their local food concept and having details of where they’d sourced their products, was a bonus. The young lady that served us was delightful, smiley, helpful and friendly; even I couldn’t ask or want for more. But on Saturday, it all fell apart because when Ian and I went in and were checking out the menu which is on huge blackboards on the wall, a young man asked us if we wanted food, which we did, but then told us they stopped serving at 3.00 and the time then was 3.10pm. I’d walked in under a sing above the door which said ‘Local Eating House’ and there was another blackboard outside saying ‘Open All Day’. We did look, but couldn’t see lunchtime food as 12 – 3.00 anywhere, but there we are. The young man said everywhere in Cardigan stops food at 3.00, which was obviously acceptable and made sense to him, but not to me.

Firstly I’m not even sure that statement was true, but Wales relies on tourists, and it was still in theory,  the Easter holidays. He certainly wouldn’t know we were locals or tourists but either way the kitchen was closed, and we weren’t even offered a sandwich. So there was no option but for us to walk out. My suggestion is, if it’s vital that 25 Mile has to close for a break at 3.00, which obviously has to be their choice, just have a board or sign outside giving times of food service. It’s easy with hindsight to say that I shouldn’t have been tempted to pay a second visit to 25 Mile, I should have played safe, stayed in Pembrokeshire and visited
again either The Shed at Porthgain or Morawelon on the Parrog, Newport!!!

They certainly impressed me the first time, but ………………….

Hopefully some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers might be lucky to be supplying them

 
 

Newport Local Produce Market

10 Apr

Easter often gives me the chance to go out and about on the Bank Holiday Friday and Monday, such a pleasant change from being chained to my computer.

I went to Haverfordwest market on Friday and then onto Newport on Monday. Trade was reasonable at Haverfordwest which was good to hear after a lot of poor reports have come into me.

However Newport was a very different story. Wind didn’t stop actually play, but the Newport Market Manager decided to cancel the market because of a forecast of gusts of wind over 30mph. The reason for this is it’s a limit imposed by St Dogmaels market, whose stalls Newport use, for Health & Safety reasons!!!

Pathetic doesn’t even cover this scenario, especially as St Dogmaels ran an Easter Fair themselves on Easter Monday, so Newport had to hire in stalls from Haverfordwest! So this was puzzling. Yes of course with that forecast, they’d have had to take extra care, but they’ve done this in the past, I think it comes under ‘sandbags and commonsense’.

I really couldn’t believe it. The Market Manager had listened to the weather report; gusts of wind were forecast, so the decision was made that the market would not run.

I assume that the Market Manager responsible for this decision has:

  1. Never worked as a market trader – or
  2. Never been self-employed when gusts of wind just don’t stop play, especially when you have the added pressure to earn some money to survive.

Surely I cannot be the only person that goes shopping in the wind and rain, can I? No of course not, otherwise most of Wales would at times be short of many basic food stuffs, sorry I’m being silly.

I was, and still am, cross with this feeble excuse for cancelling a weekly market as weekly markets are something I have been championing for years. Then Newport starts up a weekly market and I’m told by  traders that business is quite good and much appreciated by the locals – brilliant – winners all round. As I regularly travel around Pembrokeshire, I’d seen a sign telling of their Monday market, but this was my first chance to visit, so I was also very disappointed.

I have two main moans, firstly for the producers. At least three traders made contact with the market manager on the Sunday  afternoon/evening, one as late as 7.30pm to be told the market was going ahead. The Market Manager then sent out an email at 8.30pm Sunday night to say the market was cancelled. Did he/she really expect  all the traders to be sat checking their computers on Sunday night? Or have these traders all been making so much money that they can afford email phones!!!!! Was it was too much trouble for the Market Manager to telephone every trader? Well obviously it was, because it didn’t happen. But I want to
know why not?

What about the physical work the traders had already had to do to get themselves and their stock organised for Easter Monday? Vegetables had been picked, cakes baked, sausages made and some extra animals killed. To prepare produce takes planning and that is  not something that can be achieved in 5 minutes, some traders have to plan a week ahead. Then my concern moves to the locals who had possibly decided not to do a huge supermarket shop over the weekend knowing that their market would be
operating as usual on Monday. Local shoppers supporting local producers, isn’t this how it should happen?

If the Market Manager is going to continue flapping about Health & Safety procedures, then why not close the road as normal every week? Newport has the legal signs and cones, so that’s not a problem and then any traders that wish to trade in inclement weather, have the ability to do. Traders could also bring their own stands, so that would also save you a job, wouldn’t it? What I saw on Easter Monday morning, was a few determined traders running around Newport trying to find somewhere to trade from.

The more I think about this cancellation, the more puzzled I am. What difference does it make to that ‘wise’ Market Manger who decided to cancel this Easter Monday market, what did the wind and rain matter to them? Unless he/she had simply decided they’d just rather not work at all. If it’s a windy, wet day the people that are taking the risk are the traders, no-one else. If the weather deters locals attending, then obviously traders’ takings will be down, but the traders will have already paid for their stands so where is the loss for Newport? Does the Market Manager get paid regardless whether a market is run or not?

I know I’m not alone, that weekly markets are well accepted by locals and they do like the ability to do their shopping locally each and every week, it really is that simple. I wonder how many people like me decided to take the opportunity to visit a Monday or Friday market that they can only visit on this Bank Holiday?

The organisers must be loyal and supportive to the traders and the local people – goodness knows how much trade was lost through the  holiday makers that were about. I hope the Market Manager issues an apology to those poor traders who lost out big time on Easter Monday and my congratulations to those few traders who decided to trade anyway.

I’m sure some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers will keep me updated about Newport.

 

 
 

National Trust Appear To Be Upsetting Our Producers

03 Apr

I’ve not had many dealings with the National Trust, but have always admired the job they are doing in preserving our heritage and their on-going work for conservation and preservation.

However, what has disturbed me of late is getting feedback from quite a few producers, who initially and understandably chuffed to bits getting their produce stocked in National Trust, (NT) properties and shops are now not so pleased. The reason is money or to be precise the new payment terms from the National Trust. I’ve been told that any producer delivering and the invoicing the NT on 15th April would only be paid by the 30th June, that is payment at the end of the month following the invoice, but it may take 10 working days to process the invoice. Gosh how convenient for them.

I’m horrified by this, as I had, naively it now seems, to have this image of the NT as a fair company, on a par with the likes of John Lewis, a business you could trust. Not like one of the big four supermarkets who can make their suppliers literally jump through hoops rather than pay them promptly. If suppliers are forced to wait such a long time for their money, I’m disgusted. I’ll wait to be told my information is wrong and NT pay all their suppliers within 30 days – if not before! Another supplier not impressed with NT is one who has been waiting months, and months and months and months, to get some lines accepted and have been run around in circles, with still no decision.

I also hear of small companies having issues working in National Trust properties with planning delays and people having extended leave with no cover in their absence. Well this is a sad situation but my sympathies is of course to our producers.

I know from our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers how tough their life is and they really don’t need slow payers to add to their worries.

Many visitors come to Wales and to tour a historic house or castle is very much a part of their holiday experience. Whilst doing this they love to shop either for themselves or for a gift to take back home and its here where our Welsh food producers can fit the
bill. A gift of honey, jam, chutney, cheese, local beer or cider makes the perfect present. But if the news I’ve had through is accurate, then I can see many producers having no alternative but to stop supplying the NT and to look for other markets. Now this would be sad, obviously not just for our producers, but for the NT to have thrown away the opportunity to showcase local food from our artisan producers and offer our visitors some home grown treats. Our visitors don’t need to be offered gifts, knick knacks or tat made in China, Japan or Korea, for goodness sake offer them a selection of what is made here in Wales and be proud of that very fact – support our food producers please!!!

 
 

Cardigan ‘Local’ Food Festival

15 Aug

I’ve had a couple of calls in about Cardigan which ran on 6th August both muttering about having stands there from England. Apparently there were at least three of them, which brought one producer to ask me: “when is local food local?” 

Having English producers at Welsh food festivals has long been an issue, not just with me but with lots of producers too. When I’ve queried this, I’m told that as Wag funding is European, festivals cannot be restricted to Welsh producers only. You’ll see this very clearly if you attend the larger events such as Abergavenny and Cardiff. If this is the case my concerns are also with visitors. If they are foodies and are on holiday in Wales and they go to what they perceive as a Welsh Food Festival, I think they would expect to see just Welsh producers there, wouldn’t you? Actually I wonder if this was a question asked in last year’s food survey – have you travelled here looking for Welsh food or doesn’t it matter to you?

I’m not sure how many of our Welsh producers can afford the time and money to attend English food festivals, or for that matter if Westminster funds the English festivals as Wales does. Maybe that is a matter that needs looking at further. I do understand though that at a fairly small festival like Cardigan, producers keen to try and earn a living, that travelling from England appears to make this festival worthwhile.

At the Royal Welsh Show in July a Wag official told me that many food producers were doing well……………………….and although I suggested that a trip around the food hall might give a different view, I’m sure that my idea wasn’t taken up! From my chats with producers that are running various sizes of businesses, life on the circuit, whether it is festivals or farmers’ markets they are attending, trade is the toughest it has been for many, many years with many producers finding these avenues to market are no longer profitable. I’m not sure how you get festival, market organisers and Wag to take on board the difficult trading climate and re-look at how these markets are actually working. We need to find ways to improve these markets, ways to get some organisers to up their game and to give the producers the boost they desperately need. Improved promotion and marketing must be near the top of this ‘action list’.   

Having said that, I’m fed-up of attending both festivals and markets and talking to some ‘new’ producers that haven’t business cards or literature, no banners on their stand and seem to spend hours sat down, arms folded and looking totally bored!!!! I know it isn’t just me that wants to know more about new producers on the scene, but if I’d been from a major food chain or just a potential customer wanting mail order, I would not have been impressed by some of them.           

Sorry not to have visited Cardigan, but I was booked elsewhere. But it was very much a non-Welsh food weekend for me for a change and Katherine Jenkins was brilliant!!!  

 

 
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Welshfoodbites Versus True Taste TV – Website Rankings

17 Jun

 As of today, our rankings for welshfoodbites is @ 303,880 – source Alexa Rankings over a 3 month period, whilst Wag’s True Taste TV is way down below us @ 2,111,071.

If I were Wag Food, I’d be very concerned, especially after they took down their other food website, Wales the True Taste, WTT, on 1st April. Sorry but can’t resist the April Fools Day parody, because who with any computer web know-how, would pull down a website? Had no-one thought about working behind the original site? I’m amazed and horrified that nearly 3 months later, WTT is still not back up and running. So the difficult question for you is, any idea who is doing the re-build? Mmmmmmm, well that didn’t take long, so well done you smart people – you’re right – Wag are doing it themselves!

Now though, back to rankings. The traffic from WTT has been re-directed to Wag’s other food website, True Taste TV, which I assumed would have had twice the traffic through, especially as they have been asking for True Taste entries via the website, but why are their rankings still so poor for a site that has been running for what seems like forever. If Wag Food were a business, this would not be acceptable and could not continue, but I’m talking about the real world guys, aren’t I?    

Wag should be horrified with both their food website performances. Mind you, I’m sure deep down, they are impressed with our welshfoodbites rankings, they just don’t want to make a fuss about it!

So can I just send my thanks to you for your support, not just for welshfoodbites but for Welsh Country magazine too. We are making a huge difference, despite the many Wag barriers we have to knock down to get anywhere.

 
 

Does Wales Know Where It’s Going, Or Even Where It’s Been?

17 Jun

The Retail Sales Index recently showed a 3.5% decrease in food sales in the month of May as compared to last year. The Retail Sales Index is a monthly inquiry into retail sales and this is  sample survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics on 5,000 businesses in Great Britain. It includes all large retailers and a representative sample of smaller businesses.

The quoted comment was “Predominantly food stores sales volumes decreased this month, with a decrease of 3.5 in May 2011 compared to May 2010. This follows last months brief respite from contraction. Within predominantly non-food stores, there was volume growth across all sectors apart from household goods stores which fell for a fourth consecutive month to 6.0 per cent. Non-store retailing again saw the largest volume growth between May 2010 and May 2011 with an increase of 19.0 per cent.”

On the other hand, the British Retail Consortium, which is generally taken as representative of the High Street Multiples including the supermarkets, say that “Food Sales slowed markedly after April’s strong growth” but is still 1.9% up on a weighted 3 month average compared to a year ago. 

So do we presume from this that smaller retailers are suffering more than the ‘big boys’?

But what does this mean to Wales? I tried in vain to fine any statistics about food sales in Wales, either year on year, month on month, multiple retailers compared to direct sales, but to no avail. But bear in mind that Wag’s Food Press Office still refuse to answer my questions so this was not an easy challenge!

Wales has had an Assembly for 10 years and food, as part of Rural Affairs, is a devolved area of government (but food has now been demoted in that it only justifies a Deputy Minister). Why, as a government don’t we have these figures published for all to scrutinise and evaluate and then allow us to adjust our businesses so that they move forward and grow?  

So much money is being put into food promotion, so would it not be a good idea to find out where we are so that we can measure what effect this money is having?

If a privately owned business sector put millions of pounds* into it as a project, would they not have an accurate financial figure from where to start, as well as a target to meet that could be accurately measured? Whilst of course, being constantly monitored and adjusted along the way?

Many of our Government ideas are good, but they appear to be spending millions of pounds on ticking boxes instead of ensuring that each process has a substantial benefit to the farmers, growers, producers and food retailers down the line. Surely this should be a basic business role.

Your comments and feedback are invaluable and can I say again that any comments left on welshfoodbites are anonymous and will stay so – the only person who will know, is me and I promise you it will remain that way.

* Millions of pounds is derived from the monies spent on Food projects from the RDP and True Taste, but again accurate spending is difficult if not impossible to find.

 
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