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Posts Tagged ‘Minister Alun Davies’

Food Festival Evaluation Report 2013

23 May

Well at long last, the outsiders, that’s us on the outside of the government circle, have been allowed to have access to the words of wisdom, which were put together by CLES/Wavehill who were awarded the tender by wag food at a cost of £27,800 ex vat.

For me, the important question is why was this evaluation report commissioned? Well it isn’t, as you might think, to help, assist and guide the organisers to provide better festivals for our Welsh food and drink producers. Oh no, that would be too obvious. This report is first and foremost for wag to send through to Europe to show that they’ve obediently ticked all Europe’s boxes and have been really good boys – go to the top of the class wag.

I get cross with some producers I’ve spoken to when they dismiss Europe. Although they now sadly accept that wag waste much money whether it be from the UK or from Europe, they realise they’ve no hope of changing wag food. What they tend to forget is that Europe is only returning part of the money that we, as tax payers, send to Europe. The fact that wag have often failed to make good use of the European grants that come into Wales, is hardly Europe’s fault, but there seems little we can do to ensure that Wales gets value for taxpayers’ money.

I’m not convinced that this report is much help to our hard pressed organisers or producers, or me come to that.

When this tender was awarded, I was told that Wavehill were to be working from paperwork sent into wag and telephone interviews between them and the organisers and producers. But scanning this report it appears that Wavehill attended just 7 of the 32 festivals wag funded in 2013. I don’t understand this. At the 7 festivals they attended they spoke to just 542 people. But why attend just 7 and not all 32 festivals that wag supported? How is that fair? However get to Page 14 out of 44 pages* and I’m informed that Wavehill were ‘asked to visit a sample of festivals’. Next question is why did they choose those seven? One problem seems to be that although the funded festivals kicked off in April, wag didn’t award the tender until June 2013. But why didn’t wag do that sooner? Could it be that wag had forgotten that their funded festivals started in April? Or were they just too busy to organise a tender?

Festivals have been funded from wag core funding, but during 2009 – 2012 wag secured funding through the Supply Chain Efficiency Scheme, (SCES) through the Rural Development Plan. Then in 2013, funding was back with wag core funding with wag placing emphasis, on what they’d been telling me for four years or more, that food festivals should be sustainable. Not sure, officially anyway when the sustainable button was hit but it sure wasn’t during 2009-12. But it’s ironic isn’t it that during the SCES years, when for example, Abergavenny went from £37,360, on 2008/9 to £50,435 in 2009/10 to £52,200 in 2010/11 – sustainable, don’t make me laugh. For the record, Abergavenny also got funding for their Christmas Fair too which went from £3,840 in 2008/9 to £5,093.13 for 09/10 and 10/11. I wonder who can clarify for me why, according to wag’s funding list for 2014, Abergavenny Christmas Fair now gets £7,500? How can that be if wag is serious about food festivals being sustainable? It appears to me that wag’s criteria or threat of being sustainable is not applicable to all their funded festivals? Unless my sums are wrong, it would appear wag prefer some festivals than others.

Of the 32 festivals awarded funding; only 30 went ahead. But with continued tightening of some wag budgets, organisers were asked what would happen with they had no wag funding. 35% felt that they’d either cancel their event or scale it down which is a worrying thought.

As in 2012, wag again issued various criteria, max £10k, food must be the core, Welsh food and drink forming at least 75% of total exhibitors and no less than 25 Welsh food and drink producers to be eligible for support and only specific elements eligible for wag funding. I feel there is some greyness of criteria here as in 2014, this has been clarified by saying that food should be the core and that food should 80% of all stands of which 75% of the food stands should be Welsh. Exhibitor lists were taken all food festivals and the report identified an estimated 971 different ‘organisations’ represented at the 30 festivals. No idea what ‘organisations’ means, I thought we were talking about food producers, but perhaps not!

The seven festivals attended by Wavehill were St Fagan’s, Abergavenny, Mold, Narbeth, Newport, Conwy, and Hay Winter festival. Wavehill reported customers spent £20.00 per head, which I find hard to believe. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time, at a lot of festivals and you only need to check the number of bags people are carrying, let alone the cost of the contents to wonder if these ‘average spend’ figures mean anything at all. In my experience, being approached by anyone with a clipboard or iPad is daunting, with many simply wanting to escape ASAP and offer answers they think are required to make their  experience less painful. Whilst we are talking financials, I must say that I do not accept, for similar reasons, the figures producers are supposed to take at each event. This is private, personal information and in nine years I’ve only spoken to one food producer who fills in their evaluation form honestly. Yes just the one. Are the interviewers going to reveal their salary or the salaries of those civil servants working in wag food? Of course they are not. So not impressed at all with the figures, but I’m sure the Minister Alun Davies will relish them and he’ll be able to churn them out at us for the next twelve months.

One point the report did make was the lateness of wag sending out the application forms and the pressure it put the festivals under. Well done for doing that Wavehill and as wag have paid you to feedback to them, maybe, just maybe wag food will take notice, although everyone is aware we’ve been saying that for years. I did note that the report stated that some festivals had newly established businesses of a small scale, and assumed that their presence at the festival assumed a desire for growth. Well not necessarily so, unless you asked if these people were full-time producers, or doing festivals at weekends for cash, and helping the growing black economy. Then on Page 41 I’m told there’s a desire within the Welsh Government for festivals securing funding to promote opportunities for new business to test trade – well this is worthy but it’s difficult for organisers to ascertain from application forms if the trader is professional or as we call them pin-money producers working weekends for cash.    

Trawling through the report, Wavehill had picked up about the north Wales organisers organising a food festival organisers’ conference, but no mention of the fact that up to 2012 wag had done this themselves. But guess that would come under biting the hand that was feeding you wouldn’t it? It was also commented about clash of local festival dates, but this is hardly news, when it’s something we’ve again been saying for years. Why for instance did wag approve funding for Brecon, Neath and Newport all run on the same day in 2013? Brecon has been long established but wag then decide they can fund another two festivals on the same day. What’s wrong in saying if you want funding you must change your date to avoid hampering Brecon? Is it because Brecon is not one of wag’s favoured festivals? It has not been common practice for organisers to work together and help each other, even when they are in the same area, but wag aren’t helping putting local festivals against one another. How is that helping Welsh food, Welsh food producers or festival organisers? Festival co-operation should be focused on because surely some savings could be made in say for example hiring tentage etc.

I was not aware until recently that organisers had to send list of exhibitors for the festival to the wag 14 days prior to their event. But if that’s the case, why isn’t that list of exhibitors then put up on their websites? That isn’t a problem with all festivals but it is with far too many. But who notices or in fact who cares? Well I do, because if any of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers are attending I want them to get as much publicity as possible. Plus if I’m attending, I too want to know who is going to be there. But this has been happening for years and wag have not sorted it out.

Another part that made me chuckle is that organisers have to send in a post event report and the first on their list is footfall. That question cannot apply to all festivals as some still don’t or can’t charge and entrance fee. Hay and Brecon are held in towns and no way can anyone can say how many attended. Get to Page 33 and this is then mentioned about town festivals – so a little confusing. It’s only the producers who can say a festival is viable for them or not. Plenty of people through does not guarantee they’ll be spending their money. However if organisers have got the people there, it’s down to the producers to sell to them!

What I found totalling annoying was some festival organisers had given quotes, but the quotes were not credited or organisers named.  So I cannot see the point in doing that because unless you happen to visit many Welsh food festivals and know for instance that children’s day on a Friday relates to Narbeth it’s pointless doing that or including it in this report. It’s just not interesting reading for me. If you’re getting quotes, name the people or don’t bother.

I’m unaware if all or any of wag’s 30 funded food festivals had an individual report sent to them, stating how it was felt their festival could progress. But in my view this is what it is all about. What’s the point if this has not happened? Oops sorry of course, I’ve forgotten, wag food needs to tick boxes more than helped festivals improve………………………

Please do read this report yourself and let me know how you feel about it.

* This report would not be so long and off-putting for us busy people to trawl through if so much information was not repeated and repeated and repeated ……………….

 
 

Food Festival Funding 2014

16 May

Funded food festival list from wag.

20th April Broneirion Food Fair, Llandinam

£1,889

26th April Gorseinon-Swansea Food Festival

£7,500

10th May Caerphilly Food Festival

£8,264

17-18th May Wrexham Food Festival Guild Hall

£8,000

23-26th May Welsh Perry & Cider Festival

£6,271

14th June Gwyl Fwyd Castell Newydd Emlyn Centre

£3,938

28th June Hay Summer Food Festival

£2,117

11-13th July Cardiff International Food & Drink Festival

£10,000

13th July Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival

£9,560

26th July Lampeter Food Festival Lampeter

£6,653

2-3rd August Big Welsh Bite Rhondda

£8,079

16th August Cardigan River & Food Festival

£6,617

6-7th Sept Newtown Food & Drink Festival

£4,900

6-7th Sept St Fagans Food Festival

£9,300

20-21st Sept Abergavenny Food Festival

£10,000

20-21st Sept Mold Food Festival

£9,000

26-27th Sept Feastival Bridgend

£5,500

28-28th Sept Narberth Food Festival Narberth

£8,730

3-4th Oct Neath Food & Drink Festival

£9,952

4th Oct Brecon Beacons Food Festival

£3,265

4th Oct Newport Food Festival

£6,289

11-12th Oct The Anglesey Oyster & Welsh Produce Festival

£2,941

18-19th Oct Llangollen Food Festival

£5,000

23-27th Oct Mumbles Oyster Festival

£5,000

25-26th Oct Gwledd Conwy Feast

£10,000

29th Nov Hay Winter Food Festival

£1,746

5th – 7th Dec Gwyl Fwyd a Chrefft Portmeirion

£6,300

14th Dec Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair

£7,500

Wag this year have only funded 28 festivals and as you’ll have already read on a previous post, funding has been cut – again. But never mind the Minister, Alun Davies,  is still saying or spinning, he’s for Welsh food and drink – well that’s good to hear but I’ve yet to believe it.

I’m not sure how much paperwork is entailed when a festival has been finished for the organiser and the committee, but as this is for wag food to tick more European boxes then it will be a fair amount, that’s for sure. But if I’d only been offered £1,899 or £1,746 I’d be so tempted to look for funding and support from elsewhere, bearing in mind wag food insists on recycling, and everything  bi-lingual, which of course doubles print costs. and so it goes on. Food festival organisers are stuck between a rock and a hard place, but what in my mind is most hurtful is that there’s really no genuine support for them, bearing in mind that many of these super people are volunteers.

I expected, as in previous years, that I’d be sent from wag food a full list of food festivals, including the dates, the amount offered and also the amount asked for. Well, as you are aware wag food cannot communicate to me by email or telephone, but this year it has taken many, many emails to get as much information as is posted above. The missing link is how much festivals asked for and if any festivals applied and were turned down. But to get that info I’ve had to do yet another Freedom Of Information question and to wait for 20 days for a response. Now who said things were improving in wag food under the new regime? Oh yes, I remember, it was a member of the wag food team…………………………….what a surprise ………………………………………

 

 
 

Further Delays On Food Festival Evaluation Report

13 May

Sorry to bore you with yet another post about the food festival evaluation report once again, but I’m still getting asked why I haven’t sent this report to our Best Of Welsh & Border, (BOW), producers. Well I thought you knew me better than that, but do apologise if I’ve not made it clear. Here’s how we work. Anything food related that comes into Welsh Country, by whatever means, will always be emailed around our BOW. The fact is we get very few press releases in from wag food and certainly no news comes in from them. It appears it’s down to me to keep asking wag food, via the press office questions. Then I might, sometime, get answers!! Best advice there is not to hold my breath whilst waiting…..

But let me return to the gist of this post. I’ve still not received a copy of the CLES/Wavehill Food Festival Evaluation Report which the Welsh Government requested these two companies to undertake. I’ve certainly lost count of the number of times I’ve asked the press office for this report, and don’t forget I’m not allowed to talk to the wag food department directly, but the press office have constantly fobbed me off. Why who knows, I’m certainly not told why. So after returning from working at Badminton Horse Trials over the last four days, I contacted the press office once more, to be told yet again: It is not available, yet but we hope it will be shortly.

Who knows what ‘shortly’ means? Well to me it means absolutely nothing apart from feeling fobbed off yet again. The press office have been telling me ‘shortly’ for weeks. So are the press office being helpful? No. Do they really care about helping me? Well from where I’m sitting I think that answer is crystal clear! Do they think I’ve nothing better to do? Without a doubt!

However I do think that now we are virtually in the middle of May, this report is purely for government purposes, it allows them to tick their many boxes for Europe. The Minister Alun Davies can extract some food facts, be they true or relevant or not and spin us another food story about wonderful Welsh food and drink. The fact that organisers of last year’s funded food festivals have no idea whatsoever what this long awaited report says about their festival. For the early ones especially, any developments or upgrading they have done have been done off their own bat. So it is apparent that this food festival report is certainly not an advantage or assistance to food festivals, unless perhaps they are running in late summer!

After nine years beating one of my many food drums for wag food to back and support our food festival organisers and therefore our producers, I’m getting absolutely nowhere. But why is this? Is it because wag food think they are doing such a good job? Is it down the Minister? Is it because the government’s priority is ticking boxes so they can keep upping their money from Europe? Is it because food festivals by and large support mainly smaller producers and wag food have never been really interested in micro producers? Is my only choice now to go directly to Europe?

Answers on a postcard please or simply post your views whenever you have time……………………

 
 

2013 Food Festival Evaluation Report

02 May

I thought I’d made it clear, but seemingly I haven’t, so my apologies. I’m still being asked for a copy of this report which was requested by wag of CLES/Wavehill for last year’s festivals. This is another occasion when I’ve asked the press office so many times when it will be available and got nowhere!

I asked yet again on  28th April and was told: It is not available yet but is in the process of being finalised so should be available on the website soon.

I went back once more, for civil service definition of ‘soon’ and was then was told that the press office: will try and let me know when it’s published. Or if I want to, email them again in about 2 weeks?  

Well that’s a huge amount of help isn’t it? Of course I’ve nothing else worthwhile to do but keep chasing the press office for information which I think should have been out in the public domain months ago, but that means nothing at all to wag food.

Anyway when we do eventually get this evaluation report it will be emailed around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers. Those of you that are with us on Best Of Welsh know that we keep you updated with as much information as  we can extricate from wag food. I appreciate it’s not much, but you also know by now that wag food do not wish to communicate to food producers about what’s happening in their industry. Their onus appears to be waste as much of Kath’s time as we can, make her life as difficult as we can and then if we really have to give her some answers she’ll circulate them and we then don’t have to bother!

There have been rumours that there is a rogue copy of this evaluation report in circulation, but it has certainly not been sent here in a brown envelope with childish hand writing as other interesting wag food information has been. Great pity that. But what will be an even greater shame is when we do eventually get this report, if it’s not worth the paper that it’s printed on…………………………

Perhaps this delay is because we’ve to wait until Minister Alun Davies launches hi new action plan, that doesn’t make sense to me, but then I’m not a civil servant so it doesn’t have to!!!

 

 

 

 
 

Rural Hero Award

27 Mar

Please don’t take this post as my blowing my own trumpet, far from it, but I must use this post to thank all of you that took the time and trouble to nominate me. I know, probably better than most, how busy and stressed your lives are and for you to add an extra job to your to-do list is not what you need! But apparently many of you did just that and all I can say is a heart-felt thanks to you all. But this is certainly not my award, it’s for Ian Mole and our Welsh Country team because they’re all as passionate about Welsh produce as I am!! I don’t feel comfortable being called a ‘hero’ that’s for our guys and gals putting their lives on the line fighting for our country. I think perhaps Rural Rebel is more appropriate for me!!!

But thank you so much, doilch yn fawr iwn.

Follows is a quick summary for you:

The Countryside Alliance Awards (aka “Rural Oscars”) were presented to the cream of Welsh rural enterprise at The Senedd, on Tuesday 25th March, propelling the winners across four categories into the UK & Northern Ireland final.

Rachel Evans Countryside Alliance Director for Wales, kindly sponsored by Assembly Members Antoinette Sandbach, Keith Davies, Llyr Gruffydd, and William Powell and awards were presented by Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner. Kath was delighted to be honoured with a Rural Hero award.

Rachel commented, “I start with a lady who is passionate about Welsh Food and is has worked tirelessly to support food producers from across Wales. Her dedication, devotion and determination to the production and promotion of local Welsh foods fully deserves to be championed as it is evident from the many nominations that food producers across Wales put forward, as they want to champion her commitment and to thank Kath Rhodes for her work. No stranger to Welsh Government, Kath is continuously knocking on the doors of power here in the Bay, making sure that the voice of foodies across Wales is heard. Asking the occasional difficult question and continuously striving towards the best possible promotion for Welsh produce she is the original food hero. I am very pleased to award a special “Rural Hero Award” to Kath Rhodes of Welsh Country Magazine”.

So once again my thanks for all your nominations and to Rachel and her hard-working team for all their efforts in promoting the rural scene and rural businesses. Ian and I did make the most of the opportunity to catch up with those Assembly Members attending but I must say I searched but was unable to find any Labour Members there. Actually I was hoping that Minister Alun Davies could have attended and presented some awards. Although he was late appearing, Minister Davies did manage to attend and speak at the fifth Food Action Plan meeting at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells that morning, as Ian and I did but although I’m told he headed back into Cardiff after that, he was obviously too busy to support the Countryside Alliance Awards night which took only about an hour in total. I must say I found his no-show, disappointing, but we had a brilliant night despite the Minister’s absence!!!

 
 

Update On Welsh Food And Drink Action Plan

05 Dec

Gosh posting details of the launch of Minister Alun Davies’ food and drink action plan on welshfoodbites on has created a lot of work for us, which I guessed it might but I couldn’t ignore it. Many of you are worried. Worried for various reasons, basically not believing that the Minister and wag food will not only listen to you, but actually make the changes you want making.

Sadly that is only the start of your worries, as comments have been passed through saying that you have no interest in climate change. Just because this government has decided to take measures to try and combat climate change, you don’t understand why this is now thrust onto food producers and that it’s now a high priority in the Welsh Food and Drink Action Plan. It appears although the government and food team have discussed their food plan with 300 businesses; I’ve no idea on what type of companies these 300 were. I’ve asked the question but not sure when I’ll get an answer. Training is another issue. Obviously if you are employing, training must come into it, employers have no choice at all because people have to know what they are supposed to know what they are doing. But training programmes are not always relevant if there are only a few people working in a company. But the part that is worrying a lot of you is the following:

Data protection

How the views and information you give us will be used

Any response you send us will be seen in full by Welsh Government staff dealing with the issues which this consultation is about. It may also be seen by other Welsh Government staff to help them plan future consultations.

The Welsh Government intends to publish a summary of the responses to this document. We may also publish responses in full. Normally, the name and address (or part of the address) of the person or organisation who sent the response are published with the response. This helps to show that the consultation was carried out properly. If you do not want your name or address published, please tell us this in writing when you send your response. We will then blank them out.

© Crown Copyright 2013

Names or addresses we blank out might still get published later, though we do not think this would happen very often. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 allow the public to ask to see information held by many public bodies, including the Welsh Government. This includes information which has not been published. However, the law also allows us to withhold information in some circumstances. If anyone asks to see information we have withheld, we will have to decide whether to release it or not. If someone has asked for their name and address not to be published, that is an important fact we would take into account. However, there might sometimes be important reasons why we would have to reveal someone’s name and address, even though they have asked for them not to be published. We would get in touch with the person and ask their views before we finally decided to reveal the information.    

Your concerns are about your responses being identified. You being told by wag if you don’t want your name and address published please tell us in writing and then they’ll blank it out but your details might still get published later, although they don’t think that will happen very often. Which is a comforting thought, I don’t think!! It’s wag’s decision if they are asked under FOI or under EIR, whether or not those details will be revealed even if you’d asked for them not to be revealed. It doesn’t make you feel any better to read that wag would get in touch with you before they finally decide, but the important bit is the decision is then theirs decision, not yours!

I don’t like the wordage, excuse or explanation that names and addresses are needed for all responses as it helps to show that the consultation was carried out properly. I actually wonder if all people involved in the food and drinks industry will be aware of this consultation, let alone any members of the Welsh public. So is this the government’s polite way of saying it’s for them to tick another flipping box?

In many ways I’m pleased that some of you have picked up on this point, bearing in mind that it follows the ‘Overview’ which many of us would normally skip over!

I’m also concerned as to how wag food think they’ll be consulting with everyone in the food and drinks industry, I cannot see how that can happen. Will they email this consultation document to everyone they know is working in the food sector? I think not but loved to be proved wrong.

This is your industry and only you that can weigh up whether it is worth you putting in any time and effort to complete this consultation, whether you wish to run with or not, it’s your choice guys.

At the end of the day it is our Best of Welsh & Borders producers I’m here for and their feedback to date has been interesting.

 
 

Welshfoodbites

04 Dec

Just a brief post for those of you that are new visitors to welshfoodbites, I just want to remind you that you are more than welcome to add your comments to any posts even if you do not agree with my take on things, that’s fine. But the point is this site just gives my take on things, how I view what’s happening, but it is important that I and the industry get different peoples’ take on what is happening as Welsh food and drink is so important to our economy.

Wag food are regular visitors to this site, they have to be, because if that was not the case then our rankings would not be so good. There is no need for you to leave your name, you can call yourself whatever you like! I do get a bit fed up with producer or trader, but the most important part is that you can leave your views and no-one knows who you are unless you want them too. Obviously you have to give your email, but if you wish to keep your true email from me there are easy ways of getting other emails. I believe this site is performing an important role in giving you a voice and getting your views and opinions out there.

For some reason, the Welsh Government haven’t thought it a good idea to give me £43k, as they have to fork2fork, to keep my site updated for 12 months. That site is an on going puzzle to me. I went on their site at 11.00am and there was still no post up about  Minister Alun Davies’ food action plan speech from Monday! Maybe £43k to do basic job doesn’t mean that they have to be efficient – but then who knows? Money for old rope does spring to mind once again. As we begin December, fork2fork have managed to post 43 news items and when I say post, I mean they copy and paste them, not think and craft anything new. Surely nobody can say cutting and pasting is a difficult or time-consuming job can they? But being kind and concerned about their poor rankings I went back onto their site just after 12.00pm to find they have now managed to post their first news item for December, which is the Alun Davies action plan. So if you want to try your maths out, 43 news items as we enter December for their £43k payment……………………………..who said money for old rope?

 

welshfoodbites is not funded by the government or any company come to that. Plus this site is not sold as part of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers package – it’s completely independent.

 
 

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.

 
 

Food & Drink Strategy – What’s Happening?

31 Oct

I posted on 25th September about the Minister Alun Davies’ statement on Food & Drink strategy and we did send the statement to all our Best Of Welsh and Border producers to make sure they are aware of what is happening.

Apparently the Minister sees an urgent need to establish a Welsh Food and Drink Forum or Federation of people drawn from across the industry to provide strong leadership, vision and much closer working between government and business.

How and when this will happen, I’m really not sure.

He then states that wag tested the ‘Food and Drink Wales’ identity this year with a clear Welsh identity which has been well received by the trade. The consultation will be asking for views on further development of the new identity as well as how to strengthen and sustain it.

I have no idea whatsoever which producers the Minister means by ‘the trade’ whether he means it is the usual sector of the trade that has open and easy access to the decision makers in wag food, or if for once the micro and smaller producers were included to put forward their views.

The strategy will set the vision for both government and industry ensuring that both are accountable for delivering results. I will be setting out the proposed targets and milestones in the consultation and will welcome widespread debate. I want the food industry, stakeholders and Government to work together to achieve results and I am confident that together we can set our sights high and reach beyond our expectations.  

A question was also asked in the Senedd about True Taste which to date has cost £4.2 million and which was abolished without consultation, sadly this wasn’t really clarified.

Overall, fine words but I’m sure I will not be alone in knowing I’ve heard similar ones before. I recall when wag ‘kindly’ asked us for our views for a Food Plan set up in 2010. I remember sitting for hours in a hotel in Pembrokeshire and the then Head of Food asking for our views after telling us wag were putting forward a 10 year plan for food. Many of us argued strongly that it was impossible in the current climate to create a plan for five years, let alone ten. But despite the ‘your views are important to us spiel’ we got a 10 year plan which surprisingly didn’t last the ten years!! Now we are on the roundabout once again, well in theory anyhow! So what do we do? Well that’s not an easy question to answer. I am well aware that some of you are so disheartened with wag food that you will do absolutely nothing, and of course that’s your choice. But if that’s your decision please don’t moan at me about wag food in the future. It is rare that wag food asks for your views and I’d be the last to stick up for them because you certainly haven’t any guarantee at all that they will listen and I do accept that. I also accept that producers, especially the smaller ones get the chance to pass their views to wag food, although I’d be the first to admit I’m never sure if producers are then ignored or if this is what you’d call paying lip service! But, I refuse to give up and say again, if you don’t try, don’t moan at me. Welsh producers and Welsh food are what we are all about, so let’s keep going……………….

I’ve asked wag’s press office what consultation process is going to happen and have been told that meetings are going to be arranged in the future. However one is being held with the new Head Of Food, Keith Smyton, again in Pembrokeshire, but that is just for Pembrokeshire producers. But this very morning Ian has just taken a call from one of our Best of Welsh & Borders producers, one who is based in Pembrokeshire and he knows nothing about it!!!! Ian gave him the details of the person he should speak to about being ignored, and I hope that is the only one they’ve missed out. This BOW producer had picked up about his meeting because we’d sent it around them all a soon as we’d got it. We’d received the meeting news, not from Pembrokeshire food department, but from a BOW producer who wanting to keep us in the loop, however the date and day of the meeting was incorrect. But thanks to those Pembrokeshire producers that kept me updated, much appreciated as always.

Early this week I asked Pembrokeshire Food dept. for press tickets to attend, but been told that it is for Pembrokeshire food producers only and that press and public are not allowed to attend. I don’t really know any Pembrokeshire public that would be interested sufficiently in food to want to give up an evening to attend, but to ban press is puzzling to say the least and in my view not at all helpful. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said this industry should work together more, but a reality check for me is required this is  not the industry, this is Pembrokeshire one of only two Welsh counties that actually have a food officer.

 
 

Contract Quandary For Wag

21 Jun

Apparently one of our local AMs, Elin Jones has been told that small catering firms are being denied the opportunity to bid for government contracts.

The government employs over 270 staff at its regional headquarters at Aberystwyth and issues an all-Wales contract to provide catering services at several of it offices. Well that sounds ok so far but the stumbling block is that a minimum turnover of £2 million per year is a requirement before firms can tender. Well if you live in mid-Wales you’ll not be surprised to learn that there are not many firms that turnover £2m, let alone catering companies! I understood the idea of devolving Welsh Government offices to areas like Aberystwyth was to help local businesses and suppliers. Bearing in mind how expensive it was to re-jig and build new offices, here there and everywhere, not to mention moving staff and paying staff off that refused to moved, what was the point?

Ms. Jones states: “The government’s policy on public-sector procurement should give a fair chance to small and medium sized businesses”.

Well I’m in agreement with her comment, but now I want to know how she intends to stop this unfairness. She challenged Alun Davies, the Minister for Natural resources and Food in the Assembly last week but I have no idea what happens next. Being the government could this be swept under their already lumpy carpet?

 

Why am I bothering blogging this you might ask? Well a couple of reason really, firstly to support our Best Of Welsh producers that are involved in catering, then to raise awareness, but also to rattle the cages of those in power who are more than aware that this blatant unfairness has always gone on. It’s gone on because smaller producers haven’t an official voice like the NFU or FUW and they’re reluctant to challenge the government for risk of being blackballed in the future.

 

It’s a sorry state of affairs, that’s for sure.