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Posts Tagged ‘Puffin Produce’

At Last Wag Has a Full Board

30 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please do let me know your views and add your comments on welshfoodbites.co.uk.

 
 

Update On Food & Drink Board

04 Mar

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

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

Anyway here it is in full: 

 24th February 2015

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

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

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

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

 David Lloyd, ZER02FIVE Food Industry Centre, Cardiff

Marcus Sherrerard, Dawn Meats, Carmarthenshire

Llior Radford, Llaeth y Lian, Denbigh

Andy Richardson, Volac, Felinfach, Lampeter

Justin Scale, Capstone Organic, Pembrokeshire

Buster Grant, Brecon Brewing, Brecon

Huw Thomas, Puffin Produce, Pembrokeshire

Alison Lea-Wilson, Halen Mon, Anglesey

Norma Barry, Consultant, Cardiff

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

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

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

 

 
 

A Further Update On Winter Fair

19 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 
 

Local Welsh Food At Royal Welsh Show

25 Jul

There was huge relief all round that the sun shone on the showground in Builth Wells. I visited on Monday and after signing in at the press Office and able to get a cup of PG Tips …….despite the fact that Welsh Brew Tea had two stands at the show; I made my way to the Food Hall. Before I entered the Welsh Food Hall, I had to pass a mobile van selling ice-cream, nothing wrong in that you might think, but you’d be wrong, this van was Kelly’s Of Cornwall, yes guys Cornwall!!! In our Welsh Food Hall there must have been at least three Welsh producers selling ice-cream and the quality of their product I know is second to none but why should they have to compete with a van from Cornwall just outside the Food Hall? Is there a Cornwall foodie insider working on their behalf in the RWAS? Or is there another reason for Cornwall ice-cream to have such a prominent position alongside our Food Hall. Now please don’t think that Kelly’s of Cornwall is a mini family business, because I didn’t walk the entire Welsh Showground I counted a total of three Kelly stands there. Now of course I’m aware just buy looking at the ‘quality’ of some of the stands at the outer reaches of the show ground that the RWAS must take any stand that wishes to attend, but is it really beyond the comprehension of RWAS and Wag Food to put in at least some effort to push Welsh food first.

I saw a few red banners bearing Welsh Assembly Government logo, saying there were supporting rural business, but perhaps micro and small food producers don’t come under Wag’s count of rural businesses. You hardly need to be the ‘Brain of Wales’ to work out that this mobile ice-cream van could easily have been sited elsewhere, it is after all a very large show ground and all it needed was a little thought and for Wag Food to recall who they are actually working for. Perhaps this might just get me into another game of ping pong when Wag might say it is not their jurisdiction and pass it over to RWAS, but if that’s the case RWAS might care to recall that Wag is possibly their biggest single benefactor. For as I understand it Wag allegedly put into the RWAS coffers via various means £1m for the summer show. Wag ‘occasionally’ forgets that those doing the paying, do the saying too.  Wag does use this ploy elsewhere, but that is another story to be aired here later.

So that was my day off to a poor start, but could it get worse? Sadly yes it could and it did. As I walked around the Food Hall, and I did that many times during the day, what struck me, as it did when Wag first opened this building is a total lack of anywhere to sit. There where no seating areas inside at all and it got to the stage where some people had no option but to sit on the floor. Good heavens what is life coming to that this obvious one to me anyway, is not important to the powers-that-be? There was space for seating areas to be done, as they were last year, but if you go onto Preseli Coffee or visit Welsh Brew Tea for a well earned cuppa, it appears you just wander around trying to drink it. As for food if you wish to buy some of the fabulous food on offer, then you eat on the hoof or go outside and find an area of grass to camp down. People resorted to sitting on the concrete steps outside and because the weather was lovely and warm, I guess that was better than nothing for them. But this area was not cleaned on a regular basis, not sure that I actually saw that many cleaners on my travels. But surely the infamous Food Hall should be a priority for cleanliness. I did find around one corner of the Hall just a few tables and chairs, but there was no bin sited there, just a few plastic bags tied to railings and the floor was nothing short of a disgrace. The demo kitchen, which ran last year in the Food Hall wasn’t there this year, but even that extra space didn’t spur Wag to provide a seating area. I would have thought that the longer we can keep people interested in the Food Hall the more opportunities for our producers to sell to them – but what do I know? Answers by email only please!!!!!!

So Wag; if that’s your showcase of Welsh Food, your standards need to rise. There were some outstanding producers in the Food Hall and many of them were our Best Of Welsh & Borders and I was delighted to be associated with them. What a choice of food on offer but what a dreadful shame I felt that they were let down by Wag once again.

I was told that Horeb Food Centre was having some sort of event in the room above the Food Hall, but think my invite got lost in the post, unless Horeb Food Centre had nothing to tell the press.

I was told by one producer that it cost £750 for a single fronted stand and £900 for a corner stand; this includes a table and two chairs and two tickets per day. Well although this is for four days, it’s still a huge amount of money bearing in mind if you want an extra table, that’s another twenty pounds, there was no chiller area this year, but of course if you wished to hire a fridge from them they could do that – for another fee. Last year the traders had a coffee and tea machine and water provided, this year they only had water, but no explanation for the change this year, maybe they are expected to just be grateful they got water included for their £750 fee. I’ve just checked my old records for RWAS 2008. According to the letter I have it says that it costs Wag £50k plus vat to hire the old Food Hall for the summer show alone and an additional £180k plus vat for stand build, graphics and dressing. In 2010 my info states a single fronted stand £355 plus vat and £405 plus vat for a corner stand. In 2011 prices I have show £600 plus vat which is £750 for a single fronted stand and £700 plus vat for a corner stand which is £875.

Every time I go into this new Food Hall, I cannot forget that this building was designed by a food expert, no doubt at huge cost, bearing in mind the bill was £1.6m, but on the plus side at least after the first shambolic opening in 2010, the stands are no longer in long straight runs, so it does work better and allows much easier traffic flow. But that is really my only plus point. Wag Food pay the RWAS £100k per year so that they have this building for the Royal and the Winter Fair, which is a lot of money to then fail to showcase the Best Of Welsh food – and of course that figure is only the start of the costs. For the old Food Hall, Wag paid £50k per year to RWAS, so a 50% increase is not a bad earner for the RWAS is it?

Farmers’ Market
The warm weather certainly played into the hands of the Farmers’ Market which had about 10 quality stands and wooden tables and benches so people could buy and eat and drink. It proved a popular area and I hope that it is a good four days trading for our producers.

HCC -Hybu Cig Cymru

Sorry guys, I’d forgotten I’d been invited to an HCC breakfast and press conference and listened to the HCC Chairman and the Deputy Food Minister each give an address, both delighted with the export sales they have achieved this year and that they had invited a party of Italians over in an effort to win our trade for that market. I just wished I’d had both those men with me at a Slow Food Movement lunch I was invited to last week. A lady who had recently moved to Wales complained to me that she struggled to find Welsh meat in her local supermarket and why was that considering all around her cottage she’s surrounded by sheep. I suggested she rang HCC, but there was no hope that would happen, she was just so annoyed that buying Welsh meat should be a challenge. So I gave her a copy of Welsh Country magazine – highlighted her nearest butchers and she was happy.

Over the years we’ve talked to HCC endlessly by phoning, hoping we could find a way to work together and obviously help our local butchers especially those already with us on Best Of Welsh & Borders listing, but also to help local butchers in their battle against the supermarkets. We’ve even had a meeting with them, which was not fruitful and we’ve talked regularly with their PR Agency, who did tell one of my team she ‘was too passionate about Welsh food’ – can you believe that? So there’s no point me mentioning this issue again with HCC because they don’t believe what I’m saying. So no progress there for, whilst they are busy bragging about their exports.

Stubbins Marketing and Puffin Produce both had stands there, generously giving away samples and encouraging people to buy in their local supermarket – great. So this raises my next question, what’s the point of the Royal Welsh Food Hall?

It appears to me that Wag focus the food hall to help promote Welsh food to the supermarkets. Indeed the Royal Welsh has to be the show where all the UK food buyers for the bigger supermarkets and wholesalers are all present. So it follows that the larger food producers should be in attendance and presenting their produce in the most professional manner. For these companies the restrictions of the food hall maybe isn’t quite right for their companies. Perhaps a corner stand isn’t big enough for them. They might want more space, they might want more raz ma taz and to be able to offer a little hospitality on their stand. On the other hand in the promotion from the Royal Welsh, it highlights the Food Hall as a fantastic place for the farmer’s wife and the family to go and find excellent Welsh food; it doesn’t say you’ll then struggle to eat it. This is a wonderful concept and should be applauded, but the two do not really go together. Indeed by putting the two together in my view spoil both sides of this coin. This hinders supplies to the supermarkets because the buyers are not treated with true VIP hospitality as they are at some speciality wholesale shows, but for the smaller producers selling to the general public, they are hindered with supposed restrictions on sales and not good facilities for the public to enjoy the food that they purchase. I do accept that some smaller producers do wish to go the supermarket route too but this is not difficult to sort out – simply ask them!!!! There must be a better way to make more out of what should be an amazing showcase for our artisan producers and they have never needed Wag’s support more to fight the recession and for many the supermarkets too, but if only they could get that support.

I do understand that it will not be easy answer, but please WAG bring your head out of the sand and face facts, actually engage with producers and just to be clear, I mean talk to them and then listen carefully to what they say – do realise that this will not be a simple task for you because many producers simply don’t trust you as civil servants, they don’t believe you have their best interests at heart in fact many don’t think you are interested ion tghem at all. But as some members of the food team can’t even say hello to producers at these types of events, you have a long hard road to climb, but it is of your own making.

Things can be improved to the benefit of all, to the reputation of Wales as a whole and more importantly for Welsh food to all sectors of society.

The speech made by the Deputy Food Minister at the HCC breakfast was very full, and from industry people I spoke to later in the day, their view was it was very full of hot air and Bet Fred could have taken good money on the number of times that the Deputy Minister said talk. Talking is good, but only good if it is linked with listening, that is why we have one mouth and two ears. It has been said by the Deputy Minister and others from the Welsh Food Department and its many institutional offshoots, that there is very little wrong and they hear very few complaints from food producers.

All businesses know that it is looking at the weaker areas of their business and it is by improving these areas that good businesses succeed and grow, i.e. by being self critical. May be we can all learn from one of the best and brightest business men to walk the planet – Bill Gates who once said “I am self-critical … I’m always searching for things I’m NOT perfect in.”

 
 

Food Festival At Milford Marina

25 Jun

As I’ve not been for quite a few years, I decided on Saturday to pay a visit to this food festival, which is the start of Pembrokeshire Fish Week. As I’d expect from such a huge operation run by Pembrokeshire County Council, PCC, there were plenty of signs, including AA signs on my drive into Milford Haven. There were also plenty of car parking signs too with the additional bonus of polite and helpful car park attendants. No hassle either getting into the event as PCC had efficiently sent me wristbands through. You are all aware that I’m not in agreement with entrance payments, even though it was only £2.00, two adults attending, that £4.00 would by a pot of jam or chutney, a waxed cheese and have change! I agree there was a mix of entertainment and a small cookery demo area, but I do wonder if an entrance fee kept some people away, I’m sure it must have, surely not the real foodies, and maybe they’d only have bought an ice-cream but Cowpots would have been delighted to see them.

So basically a good start, despite the blustery weather, and the rain stayed away for the main part of the afternoon, sunshine would have made a huge difference for everyone, traders and punters alike, but sadly that’s one area we can’t control. But there are other areas that can be controlled and here’s my take on it. I talked to lots of traders because we had many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there and a few producers that were new to us – so Ian and I had a very chatty and busy time. I had mixed views from traders on where they weresited some didn’t mind being sited by the stage area others minded a lot. I, as a punter, found it a little confusing. There were some young people playing on the stage when we arrived and they were very good indeed, and then on one side was a mixture of professional traders and some craft stalls with a mobile fast food van opposite and a seating area, which was great if the rain stayed away. I must say if I’d have been a trader trying to sell my hot food I would not have like a mobile van parked opposite me!!!! I understand the link with this mobile van is that the company is Saundersfoot based and run the St David’s festival there. But to me it takes away from the genuine small producers, I can of course see a need for these vans at bigger events but I’m not happy at seeing them at a food festival. There was a fantastic selection of hot food available.

I then moved on past a bouncy castle, a mix again of professional food producers and craft, past a kid’s activity area and a small cookery demo area, followed by many charity type stands, environment stands, council stands before another run of professional food traders and at the end a very good group doing sea shanty songs, who did a sterling job. Purely from my point of view, I’d have preferred that the food guys were all together, that there was a covered area where punters good sit, chat and eat and drink they’d bought from our producers, but maybe some traders might disagree. I struggled to find one of my favourites stands
SamosaCo. I was starving and searched and searched for them, knowing they were attending, and about to give up, I found them virtually at the end of the tradestands. Might it work better if all hot food stands were together with the seating area I’ve already mentioned? Just another of my many thoughts I thought I’d share. From the traders’ side, wouldn’t it be easier for PCC to issue a site plan so traders can book they area they want to be in? Maybe that happens in theory, but in practice it wasn’t as slick as it could be, rather messy, but there can be no doubt that there were some quality stands there.

The Milford festival received £31,671 funding from the food festival budget, which according to wag’s funding criteria would have gone to purely funding this one day event. That’s one whole lot of money for a single day and I’m not sure where the spend went, bearing in ind the traders paid around £60/£70 per stand and £20.00 for electric and of curse the punters paid to come in. Fish Week also received £25k from the Major Events Unit, sponsorship from Milford Haven Port Authority, Arts Council of Wales, plus about 16 other sponsorships.

I’d been told by a producer that there were English stands allowed in but I didn’t see that on the day. One query I did have was a trader carrying a Brazilian sauce, which in my view, had a bar code which wasn’t a UK one. The label stated, made in Truro, although it had some connection with Horeb Food Centre.

I was not impressed by the cookery demo area, basically because I had no idea who was actually cooking, I couldn’t see a blackboard or a notice board giving chef and times of demos and nothing saying what they were cooking either. Checking on a
flyer I found that Ludo, from Ceredigion was one chef and Anand George from Cardiff, I’ll say again, although you are doubtless bored to tears with my saying the same thing, but here it is, why not use local chefs? That shouldn’t be difficult with the talented chefs that abound in Pembrokeshire. But if that can’t be done, why don’t festivals adopt what Caerphilly did this year and get some of the professional producers to do cookery slots, or at least offer them the opportunity of doing talks for the punters? Festivals should be there for producers, but festival organisers need to give them some thought as to how they can help them stay trading!!!!

I found it difficult to do an accurate count of stands that were there, I think my count was 44 food and 42 craft, which might or might not be correct but seems to fall short of Wag’s demand that food should make up 80% of stands. There were endless charity stands and a massive stand for the local guides. I also puzzled about the value of Littlewood’s Clearance at a funded food festival. I found Puffin Produce listed on the Fish Week website, but couldn’t find them at the event until I realised they were trading under a different name, sampling potatoes and directing people to their supermarket stockists – great – I don’t think! It’s a well known fact that if money is spent locally it stays locally. I appreciate the power of the supermarkets and also that parts of Wag’s food
division actively promotes selling to supermarkets but it is not a distribution line that all can take and surely the place to do sample marketing is in the supermarket where the existing customer can then go and buy the product.

Pembrokeshire Produce Direct, PPD won my new award for the most boring stand, two guys and a small table with some literature on it. Those guys, in my view should have been much more proactive and one of them leaving the safety of their stand and start
talking to people. Yes talking to punter, asking them, where do you come from, have you heard about us and what we do, would you like to try our delivery service?? They hadn’t even brought a selection of food produce that they currently run, so there you are guys – ‘Kath’s Boring Stand Award’ is yours for your very poor effort on the day. Rumours still circulate about PPD and the lack of sales, well producers watching them in action – well not quite in action – two guys stood on a stand both with their hands in their pockets, was not only not a good look, but it achieved very little. But will those guys get paid at the end of the month? Of course they will until their funding totally runs out.

It was good to hear that some producers had done ok on the day and as I say some sunshine would have made a massive difference. None of the traders I spoke could show record sales by a long shot, and you had only had to look at the lack of food
bags being carried around to know that was true. But it was not all doom and gloom that I have been seeing at some festivals of late. My suggestion to this festival, as it is to many of them, is please don’t just rely on the feedback forms that traders are supposed to fill in before they leave, some will be honest with you, others wont if they wish to return. Take the time to talk to
the traders, when they are not busy, and there were plenty of times that they weren’t. Endeavour to find out the truth about your event, not forgetting why this event went ahead in the first place, it was for our producers.

I’d also like to remind you on a personal level that it makes no difference to me if this event was a success or not, but it does make a heck of a difference to the livelihoods and the future of our Best Of Welsh, BOW, producers. Our BOW producers support us with advertising and I will continue to talk to them, listen to them, agree with them sometimes, tell them off at others, but fight
their corner so that they get a better deal from festival organisers and from wag.

HAVE YOU ANY COMMENTS TO MAKE?

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