Posts Tagged ‘RWAS’

Smaller Welsh Food & Drink Companies To Benefit From €1.8million Boost To Increase Global Competitiveness

25 Jul

Smaller Welsh Food & Drink Companies To Benefit From €1.8million Boost To Increase Global Competitiveness, now if some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW, do not take advantage of this €1.8million programme – I shall be very cross………………………………………..

This press release came through this morning from the Welsh Government and is published below in full:

Small and medium food and drink businesses in Wales are set to benefit from a €1.8million programme to help increase their competitiveness in global markets.

Wales will become the latest nation to join the Atlantic Area Export Project, which supports businesses from across the Atlantic Arc to work together to overcome the barriers smaller businesses in the sector face when they try to expand into international markets. Currently over 72% of food and drink exported directly from Wales goes to the EU. This figure is much higher for Welsh red meat, where 90% of exports go to the EU. The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, will make the announcement during the second day of the Royal Welsh Show.

The Cabinet Secretary said:

“We’ve seen Welsh companies become global brands, such is the high quality of food and drink we produce in Wales. We want to help more small companies break into new markets. Today’s announcement will help them to do this – just one breakthrough can be a real game changer, providing a significant boost to our rural economy.”

Exports of food and drink have grown by almost 20% in the past year.

The latest boost to smaller businesses follows the Welsh Government’s announcement in March that £21million would be made available through Project HELIX to help smaller food manufacturers in Wales increase production and reduce waste. Since then the project has supported 162 small and medium sized businesses and safeguarded 120 jobs. The Welsh Government has committed to investing £2.4million over the next two years to expand the food and drink industry’s export market and raise Wales’ global profile. As part of this commitment, the Cabinet Secretary will today announce the successful BlasCymru/TasteWales event, which brought global food and drink industry members to Wales to connect with Welsh food and drink producers earlier this year, will be returning in 2019.

The announcements come as initial findings from research undertaken by the Welsh Government on UK consumers views on the value of Welsh products, found 8/10 shoppers prefer to buy Welsh products and 75% think Welsh food equals excellent quality.

The Cabinet Secretary added:

“We will continue to push the UK Government to prioritise full and unfettered access to the single market and avoid any new barriers which impede Welsh food and drink businesses from operating effectively. There are many opportunities and we are supporting our food and drink sector to be in a position to make the very best of these.”

Now some good news to update you on, I actually received an invite from wag food to attend the Minister’s speech today and also offered tickets to the show ground!! That was a welcomed invite, even though as accredited press for RWAS I was officially allowed to turn up anyway. Well with her busy schedule, the Minister was obviously not going to have a chat with me after her speech and more importantly, neither was she likely to book 12 pages of advertising for our next six issues, so I just couldn’t justify another day at the RWAS to listen to a brief speech. However any help for Welsh food and drink producers, provided there is lots of guidance and back-up too, is welcome news for me.

I’m not sure why Taste Wales will run next in 2109 and not next year, but it does seem to have been effective.

Now my final update is to say wag food also invited Ian and I to the Business Lounge above the Food Hall. Well not having been in this hallowed area for many years – and even then we weren’t officially invited, but press passes can still get you into many places – and the improvement in that area was amazing. You are all well aware how hard Ian and I and the team here work to promote Welsh food and drink and our BOW producers, I’m constantly saying we produce the best food and drink and that display was proof indeed. It was a magnificent showcase. We’d many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW, in there and that was so good to see. Buster of Breconshire Brewing needs a pat on the back too as the number and quality of drinks shown was first class.

With wag food having invited so many buyers, I think in excess of 200, but if only a proportion actually attend, it is still much needed and a way forward. Hopefully serious discussions will ensue and then orders will come through thick and fast. If producers what to go the supermarket route then this wag food help is to be welcomed, it really was an impressive showcase. I asked wag food if the likes of Aldi and Lidl had been invited and they had, so it would be good to see more Welsh products in these two supermarkets in particular as they are so strong across Wales. Deli chains had also been invited, which I was also pleased to hear as I know that’s an area many or our BOW are interested in, but not always finding it easy to crack.

Welsh Country magazine for some reason known only to wag food, has not always found ‘dealing’ or working with them easy and it’s certainly not been trouble-free. This has been more than frustrating. Our agenda, apart from gaining advertising so we can continue publishing, is to support not only our BOW producers but to support Welsh food and drink. Welsh Country is the only pan Wales magazine and the only Welsh title that is promoting Welsh food and drink so to me at least, working together should be an obvious.

This press release was sent around of BOW producers this morning and I hope wag food are pleased I’m helping them with their publicity for free! But truthfully, we promise to keep our BOW producers in the loop – if we are kept in the loop………………

But I’m sure you’ll agree that this is, for once, is a positive post and we are hopeful that life will become easier for our Best Of Welsh and Borders producers, whatever level they are trading at.


Food Festival Funding

20 Jul

I’ve totally lost count of the number of emails I’ve sent to the press office asking for a list of food festivals that wag have funded for 2016. It has got more and more time consuming over the years to get this information from wag food. But why you might ask, as I obviously do? Well I haven’t a clue, it’s something I struggle to understand. Wag food have an obligation to provide this information as they are spending public money, but they have no obligation at all to be helpful and professional about doing so. Obviously I can only relate my experience, but I can say that it is annoying and disappointing.

Apparently this year the most festivals can ask for – and sometimes get – a maximum of £5k from this budget. But now I understand that festivals can ‘officially’ apply for funding from other wag budgets. Something which in the past wag food has said never happened, as festivals could only go for one source of government funding. Regular readers will recall my trying to find out which festivals got funding from the Major Events Unit, more information which was touch to getand ended up with my having to do a Freedom Of Information question. Festivals can now apply for funding in full of for ‘selected’ areas such as waste management.

The first batch of festivals being funded as of 20th June wag are:

Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival, Cowbridge (29/30 May)

Newcastle Emlyn Food Festival, Newcastle Emlyn (11 June)

Hay Summer Food Festival, Hay-on-Wye (1 July)

Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival, Aberaeron (3 July)

Cardigan River & Food Festival, Cardigan (6 August)

Narberth Food Festival, Narberth (23-25 September)

Llangollen Food Festival, Llangollen (15/16 October)

Hay Winter Food Festival, Hay-on-Wye (26 November)

Christmas Food & Drink Fair, Abergavenny (11 December)

This is the first funding tranche as the official closing date for festival funding is 14th July. Festivals should then know two weeks later, around the 28th if they have been successful or not. As to when I’ll get details of this second tranche, I wouldn’t even hazard a guess.

Each year I say things can’t get worse getting information from wag food, but I’m constantly proved wrong, so thanks wag for a lack of communication, yes even to the press. All I want to know is which festivals wag food are funding, how much they are getting, which festivals have applied and not been successful. I like to know this information and I say early because we often put information on and As a company we always also send this food festival information to all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, firstly because wag food don’t do so and secondly because our producers are interested to know who gets what, which is fair enough as it’s our money. So I get this list last week of nine festivals that have been funded and four of them have already been and gone!

Food festival funding was a question I got asked about on Monday at the RWAS, but I could only relay the info. I’d got however did suggest producers could ask wag food staff. Of course I was being silly as it seems like me our producers have little idea who wag food staff are.

Wag food must have their reasons for changing the food festival funding again, but they are reasons they are not sharing, purely because they don’t have too, rather than no-one would be interested. But to only get the first list of festivals mid July is not a great deal of use. Yes of course it makes me cross when Welsh Country magazine set out its stall – sorry poor pun – to promote Welsh food and drink. I don’t know which festivals applied and got rejected. I still don’t know how much the likes of Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy festivals have been funded this year either. Perhaps wag food think I haven’t a right to know this information, but if they don’t tell me then I’ll have to send through another Freedom Of Information question. But why should this be necessary?

I was further insulted by wag food last week when they didn’t even send me the press release relating to food festival funding, although it was sent to other Welsh media! This is despite their promise that Welsh Country magazine would receive all food and drink press releases. Welsh Country magazine, the pan Wales magazine that has supported/promoted Welsh food and drink for over a decade is left off wag food’s press mailing list, who would believe that?

Do you think I should take this latest insult personally………………….?


Update On Spring Festival

04 Dec

an approached trade stand sector of RWAS in June asking if they could confirm a rumour  that Steve Shearman was not running the Farmers’ Market at the Spring Festival in 2015. Ian also said, if the rumour was confirmed, that we might possibly be interested in running the food section. Ian got a prompt response saying RWAS had not heard from Steve but would be in touch when they did hear from him.

Six months later and we’d had no news. On 1st December we attended the Winter Fair and there were even more rumours at next year’s Spring Festival.  Ian emailed RWAS again on 2nd December, also asking why his email string failed. The response he received is shown as follows:

The Society decided on the 18th November that the Food Hall should henceforth be the focal point for food exhibitors at the Spring Festival and that it should be managed in-house. It is expected that it will become a food court for small artisan producers from Wales and the Border Counties embracing food stands, mobile catering outlets and a seating area for visitors, but the criteria and precise details are yet to be determined.

It seems no further explanation was needed as to why Ian’s email string failed. We’ve now been told that the RWAS have made their decision. As regards stand prices etc. I’m afraid food producers will just have to wait and see if they can afford to attend, should they be allocated a stand!

I can understand why this post on Spring Festival has created interest as Steve Shearman is well though of throughout the Welsh food and drink industry.


Farmers’ Market Changes At Royal Welsh Spring Fair

02 Dec

Rumours were rife yesterday at Winter Fair about what was happening about the Farmers’ Market at the Spring Festival next year. Thankfully a thoughtful food producer had already kept me in the loop, but for those of you not aware, here in full is the latest news:

The End Of A Chapter At The Royal Welsh Spring Festival

Farmers’ Markets in Wales has recently been told, by an RWAS staff member, that the Society has decided it no longer wishes the Farmers’ Market to be part of the Spring Festival but rather that the Food Hall will take over and be run along the same lines as at the Royal Welsh Show and Winter Fair. This brings to an end the farmers’ market presence which has been a popular feature of the former Smallholders Show and more recently Spring Festival since 2004.

It was in that year the then WDA, who were contracted to run the Food Hall at the three annual RWAS Shows, asked Stephen Shearman, who manages Farmers’ Markets in Wales, to take over the running of the Food Hall at the Smallholders Show. There was funding available which enabled reasonable stall fees to be set allowing a greater focus to be made on small scale businesses. The ‘small is beautiful’ mantra fitted well with the type of visitors attending the Show, and in its heyday, the Farmers’ Market was both popular and successful.

Farmers’ Markets in Wales pioneered the offering of refreshments directly from the attending producers many of whom where farmers using their own produce as ingredients. This grew in popularity and after a few years had largely displaced the traditional fast food offering.

The Society changed the name of the Show to the Spring Festival some years ago and its nature has changed. The Welsh Assembly withdrew funding in 2011 since when the Farmers’ Market has been self financing which is no small achievement.

It remains for Farmers’ Markets in Wales to wish the Society good fortune in achieving its aims with the hope that the many producers who have attended over the years will find suitable accommodation. For those wishing to find out more about the Spring Festival 2015 please contact the Spring Festival Director: Kay Spencer

To say that food producers were concerned with this news would register as an understatement. Ian and I tried to get an official update on Monday at the Winter Fair, but let’s say, ‘we were unable to do so!’

The Smallholder/Spring Festival has regularly been covered on welshfoodbites, but let me give you my take on the situation. Welsh food should always be showcase with wag food and visit Wales getting behind Welsh food at every opportunity. Stephen Shearman did a brilliant job, not only running the food hall at the Spring event, but introducing a farmers’ market at the Royal Welsh in the midst of the show ground. The market is a great addition to the show and a wonderful opportunity for smaller producers to be able to take a stand at the RWAS and get their message out there and sell some produce!

The Welsh food and drink side of the Royal Welsh has always been a mystery to me as I cannot understand how wag food can run the Food Hall at the RWAS and the Winter Fair, but the Smallholder/Spring Show was handed over the Stephen Shearman but then treated as an outsider. This though has also changed in that wag no longer appear to be in the driving seat, but have not taken their hands off the steering wheel. As ever though with wag food, nothing is at all clear. Apologies, I digress. Even when the new food hall was built, the farmers market always ran in the old food hall. But in 2011 wag food created new criteria that insisted food festivals had to have food as the core, which meant in wag speak, that shows or events that had food alongside, not just total food, would not get funding from the food festival budget. This was another wag food rule to obey, fair enough. But my query which was raised with wag food at the time and not solved, was that the Smallholder was never listed on the food festival funding list which of course was agreed and produced by wag food themselves. So that to me at least meant that as Smallholder’s funding didn’t come from that budget, so why did wag food’s latest criteria have anything to do with the Smallholder show? After further digging I found that the Smallholder Show was funded from the Promoting Welsh Food Budget, but once again that didn’t make much sense. Why was the Smallholder treated as the poor relation and why didn’t wag food do something to sort it out? After asking Stephen to take it over why didn’t they give him some support? Which actually meant wag food were supporting food producers…………………

So since 2011 Stephen has worked tirelessly to put on a food show that would do Wales proud. But instead of wag deciding this show should be funded, they left him to it, and without funding Stephen had no choice but to raise stand prices which meant some producers couldn’t afford to attend this popular event.

It’s a sad state of affairs that a guy who is so passionate and committed to Welsh food has not been supported by wag food but instead has had endless hurdles put in place instead. None of this has ever made sense to me, maybe it would if I was sitting in a government glass house, but out in the real world of Welsh food it is another pointless exercise that has hindered the people wag food are supposed to be supporting –  the Welsh food producers.

As wag food are still not talking to me, please don’t ask me what will happen next on this sorry saga. If you are concerned, worried or like me just puzzled, I suggest you either ask wag food yourselves, or email RWAS or one of your many Assembly Members.  But good luck on those options……….


Thanks To Sender Of Another ‘Brown’ Envelope

24 Sep

A further envelope arrived today, simply marked for my attention as Editor. To be strictly true on this occasion, it wasn’t a brown envelope, but a white one, but the envelope colour is really not the point. I’d just like to thank whoever sent in more information that he or she thinks I might be missing out on. I can totally understand the sender wishing to remain anonymous; I doubt very much that the sender is on of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers, BOW  because after ten years our producers are well aware that as a journalist, and yes wag that is what I still am, a journalist, I will not reveal my sources. It does not matter to me one jot who is questioning me. I’ve had Ministers and civil servants that have insisted that I have to give a company name to a complaint otherwise they will not deal with it. But I refuse to do that unless the company wishes me to do so and if that’s the case the company can do their complaints themselves. So no-one will action my queries or complaints, but that does save them some work doesn’t it? I would put forward complaints to wag food because until our industry can trust the food department, no company names will go forward from me.

But as to who is helping me out there, all I can say is thank-you. I just wish more ‘useful’ information came through to me, but guess I’m best being grateful and not greedy!

I hope now I’ve whetted your appetite and now you wish to know what was in the envelope. Here’s a summary for you: It was taken from Sell 2 Wales on 18.9.14.

Supplier framework for the Fork2Fork project

Short description of the contract or purchase.

FBA is seeking to establish a framework of several individuals to provide a range of consultancy support around a Welsh Government /EU funded project being delivered by the organisation. The project in question, Fork2Fork, aims to raise awareness, provide information and encourage people to buy direct from local producers. There are numerous opportunities to buy direct, be it from farmers’ markets, farm shops, box schemes, online, food festivals and of course from the farm itself. 

Ian had already picked this up from Sell 2 Wales, but the reason I hadn’t posted is we were trying to uncover more detail. Fork2Fork states that FBA will be directing the Fork2Fork campaign until June 2015.

I have spoken on many, many occasions with the Scheme Manager of the Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme, SCES. This scheme goes through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013 and is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in Rural Areas.

These are extracts taken from emails between myself and the Scheme Manger in January of last year.

The project sponsor, Francis Balsom Associates Ltd, recently made a standard request to vary and/or extend its existing project through the usual Project Variation procedure.  All projects, including those under the Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme, have the opportunity to request variations or amendments to their projects both in terms of length of time for delivery or the total cost of the project by submitting a proposal to Scheme Management Unit.  We then assess and appraise such proposals and may give approval for the amendment if it is considered to be duly justified within the terms of the Scheme and the context of the project taking into account any evaluation reports where available. FBA are delivering a project that was designed by them and which is delivering against aims and objectives set by them.  This is not a contract. This Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme project was originally approved for two years but under the terms of the scheme projects can ask for extensions up to a final date of 30 June 2015.  This project has been extended twice and the last extension was approved by me as Scheme Manager on 10 October 2012. 

In respect of the project information it was originally approved with a start date of 2 July 2009 and a completion date of 30 June 2011 with total grant award of £799,736 and at the last extension the completion date was 31 March 2014 with a total grant award of £898,497. This comprised of (approximately) £55,000 for the second national conference that was delivered in 2012 and a further £43,761 for additional activity for the website, some further information circulation and an extension to the independent evaluation as the project will now run over a longer period.

In July this year I sent through an FOI 8646, asking if Fork2Fork scheme had been extended, to what date, how much money had been awarded and what for. Also what other role is Fork2Fork undertaking for wag and at what cost and why Fork2Fork were considered a Food Hall Partner Organisation at the RWAS. Well no surprise for me to tell you that wag refused to answer any of my questions stating the Substantial Harm Test – harm would likely to occur if this information was released at this point in time. Funding information will be published in autumn. 

So the onus is on us ‘in autumn’ to keep searching for this information until we find it. No doubt it will buried on the wag website – but how helpful is that? When is wag’s autumn? Where will we find it? Is this what wag food mean when they say they are working with our industry? Pity wag can’t make life easy for us.

Oh for an open and transparent Welsh government.

I will not be the only person who will be confused with this latest happening with Fork2Fork. I’m constantly talking to food producers, as are the team here and I’ve yet to find a food producer who understands what Fork2Fork have attempted to do over the last few years, whilst being funded nearly £900k. But not to worry folks, Europe’s boxes were ticked to perfection and that seems to be the most important matter.

Just before the RWAS, Fork2Fork announced that their campaign had entered a new phase and extension until the summer of 2015. I think I can take it as read that further funding has been given to take them through to June 2015; I think that’s fair to assume. Despite my many questions, I am still not clear what, if any monitoring is in place for these SCES schemes. If there is monitoring, is it by someone with the experience to do it, or is it just done by a wag box-ticker?

I guess this latest news will upset those at Pembrokeshire Produce Direct who have had to fold their project.

It’s frustrating that so much money is thrown at these projects when so many food producers are crying out for practical help and some financial support.




Changes To Food Hall At RWAS

25 Jun

I’ve kindly been sent by a couple of helpful Best Of Welsh & Border producers some news from Wag food about the RWAS food hall. I suppose there’s no need to tell you that wag food haven’t bothered to send it to me, do you think wag food think I’ve now lost interest in Welsh food and drink? In the interests of saving your time, I’m not posting all of it, but thought this portion at might be of some interest, or at least raise a smile or two for those of you not attending the RWAS.

Wales is home to a dynamic food and drink industry, with businesses ranging from the micro, artisan businesses through a range of SMEs to larger food companies , some of which have manufacturing sites in Wales but strategic headquarters elsewhere in the UK, Ireland or overseas.

Communication of the Action Plan at the RWS Food Hall 2014

These priorities  will be communicated very clearly to the consumer audience at this years Royal Welsh Show, the Food hall will not only be a retail area, but an area to educate and inform the consumer of the importance of food to the Welsh economy, Education, Jobs, Growth and Wealth.  It is imperative for you to understand these changes and to understand why the changes have taken place within the Food Hall this year.

Changes to the management of the Food Hall this year

You will have already experienced the changes on the Management and the recruitment of the Food Producers which is now the responsibility of the RWAS.  For the first time this year the Food Hall will have a Food Demonstration kitchen area in the rear of the Food Hall, in a marquee, and a trade development area in the upper room to the Food Hall – these new areas will be managed by our appointed contractor Menter a Busnes. 

WG will have responsibility for the meeting rooms in the upstairs area and will hold several business meetings with Ministers and key influential trade buyers in the industry.

Food and Drink Wales

Wales has the food personality and interest to attract both trade and consumer investment while its ‘hero clusters’ made up of farmers and food manufacturers add to a unique offering that is Wales.

Food and Drink Wales is an overarching identity which has been successfully trialled in UK and International exhibitions. It relies on simple imagery and messaging which continues to evolve and will be further refined under professional guidance.  The identity will be in evidence in the Food Hall.

Changes To The Food Hall At RWAS

The few points underlined raised my interest for sure. We are all aware of many businesses saying they are Welsh companies and that have strategic headquarters elsewhere in the UK, Ireland or overseas 

Communication of the Food Action Plan

These priorities  will be communicated very clearly to the consumer audience at this years Royal Welsh Show As wag food struggle to communicate to its food producers, I shall be intrigued to see how they and the RWAS manage to achieve communication to the consumer audience. In fact I would be delighted to hear how many of the Welsh public have heard about, let alone understand anything about the Food Action Plan. Are the Welsh public even aware that the last one was scrapped early because it wasn’t working?  

Changes to the management of the Food Hall this year

For the first time this year the Food Hall will have a Food Demonstration kitchen area in the rear of the Food Hall, in a marquee, well in my view this is as clear as mud, it’s badly written and confusing for those that have no idea what the food hall is like at RWAS. It says for the first time this year the food hall will have a kitchen demo area in the rear of the hall, where is usually is, but continues with in a marquee. I’m told, but again not by wag or RWAS, that there’s now a marquee this year so actually it’s the marquee that is there for the first time and I guess it’s the marquee that’s attached to the food hall. I think wag  mean to say that for the first time this year the food hall is being extended with a marquee at the rear of the food hall and this is where the food demonstration kitchen area will be sited.  Communication is still the key wag food…………………………

Food and Drink Wales

Wales has the food personality and interest to attract both trade and consumer investment while its ‘hero clusters’ made up of farmers and food manufacturers add to a unique offering that is Wales. Food and Drink Wales is an overarching identity which has been successfully trialled in UK and International exhibitions.

Oh dear what am I missing? Wales has food personality. I thought it was people that had personalities, but seemingly not just people, but seemingly in government speak, Welsh food has a personality. Is it just me that doesn’t understand how any food can have a personality? However food having a personality was then beaten into the top slot with the statement that Food and Drink Wales is an ‘overarching identity’!

I’ve been telling wag food, for too many years, that they need to communicate; well if proof were needed, here it is and I stand by that. Communication is the key but not with jargon, mumbo jumbo speak like this. Perhaps as this was sent out to producers attending the RWAS some of them might be kind enough to translate all this wag news for me when I next see them, here’s hoping – but once again, not holding my breath………………….


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.




Winter Fair

03 Dec

Ian and I were both invited to the Winter Fair yesterday to hear the Minister of Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies launch the consultation document, Delivering Growth: An Action Plan for the Food and Drinks Industry 2014-2020. In my head I’d got this as a press conference but when I arrived, the great and the good were in attendance along with some press, it was just disappointing to see so many people who were not wearing name badges, including some wag people too. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, oh surely not, but I thought it was still good business practice to do so. I spoke to too many people yesterday that hadn’t even a business card………..!!

I’m grateful to two Assembly Members, Simon Thomas and William Powell who both took the trouble to also make sure I’d got a copy. Many thanks guys.

Here, in full is the Ministers’ statement:

Welsh Food And Drink Action Plan Launched

New plans that will deliver growth and jobs in the food and farming sector and increase the profile and reputation of Welsh food have been launched today by Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies.

The Minister was at the Winter Fair to launch an action plan aimed at delivering a 30% increase in turnover in the Welsh food and drinks sector by 2020.

Speaking about the plan, Alun Davies said:

“I want to set a clear direction and agree actions so that Government and industry can work together to deliver growth in the Welsh food and drinks sector.

“Food production is so important and has an impact on nearly every element of our lives. It affects our economy, our climate, our diet and health, our education and ability to learn, and there is no doubt that it is a major part of our culture and tourism offer.

“We have designed this plan to ensure that Wales’ food industry reaches its full potential. That is why it includes a particular focus on delivering green growth and creating jobs throughout the food chain.

“We already have a good story to tell on food and drink, with Wales having seen a 6% growth in food and drinks sales last year and a combined turnover for agriculture, fishing and food manufacture of over £5.2 billion, however we can and must do more.

“I want our final action plan to set out ambitious but achievable targets and allow us to easily measure our performance against them.” 

Delivering Growth: An action plan for the Food and Drinks Industry includes three central themes for developing growth in the food and drinks sector. These are:

·       Forming a Food and Drinks Federation to offer leadership to the sector (something like the Dairy Task Force or Retail Forum)

·       Developing a new identity for Welsh food and drink that will support trade and market development

·       Focusing on training and up-skilling throughout the food chain.

The Welsh Government is already working closely with the largest food and drinks businesses in Wales to better understand their plans and potential for growth. Under the action plan it will also work more closely with small and medium sized enterprises and microbusinesses to help them understand the business support available to them and encourage growth.

Under the plan the Welsh Government will also seek to make Wales the first choice for international food companies’ manufacturing and processing operations.

The Welsh Government is consulting on its Action plan for the Food and Drinks Industry. The full document is available on the Welsh Government website and interested parties have until 3 March 2014 to respond.

The Minister intends to publish the final plan in spring 2014.

This statement is being sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, (BOW), not to play secretary or distribution manager for the Minister and wag food, but to make sure that all those involved in food, be they producers, chefs, hoteliers, accommodation providers I do this so that they are kept up-to-date for something that is so important for the future of their businesses.

One of our BOW did browse briefly through the report yesterday and gave me the following feedback: I’ve read many government reports over the years and I do have to say that this is more readable than most. Some sections I do not agree with, but I shall most certainly give them my views before 3rd March 2014.

I’ve not had time to read it as yet but I too will certainly pout my views forward, and I am aware I wasted time and money doing this last time and they were ignored, I and many others, were adamant that wag food could not do a 10 year food policy, which has now been proved correct, but instead of crowing, I just despair of the state of food and drink in Wales, pity so far I can’t share the Minister’s optimism. What’s also annoyed me is that 4 meetings have already been arranged and assume that’s it but these are held in Aberystwyth, Cardiff of course, and what seems to be one of wag foods favourite venues, the glass house commonly known as Botanic Gardens. For those of you in the north your only option is Llandudno Junction.  Well it must have been difficult for wag food to have had to arrange four meetings, bearing in mind last weeks’ meeting in Pembrokeshire was pretty pointless, but I do think it shows clearly once again those that get paid every month and those that will be able to claim travelling expenses apart from the two out of four that are already held in government offices! I spoke to a few people yesterday that are lucky enough to be paid monthly and despite my efforts I don’t think they understood the difference between us. They just wanted a chat, to pick my/our brains, not getting that Ian and I were there to work. But if they wanted a consultation, we can do that, which will be followed by an invoice…………………..

I’ve quickly scanned a Priority 3 – Climate Change – and although I can see it’s a Welsh Government challenge I cannot see how in the big scheme of things, with the massive problems producers still, that climate change will ever be a priority when most producers are struggling to distribute their goods, without the worry of Welsh farmers markets and festivals.

I can only urge, beg and plead with you all to send in your views. It’s really getting pointless for me to try to put your grumbles and grievances forward to wag food. I would certainly have quizzed the Minister on Monday if the Minister had done us the courtesy of saying he’d take any questions. But the last time I did an interview with him he said he didn’t get complaints from food producers only from farmers. My response to that is to make yourself as freely available to food producers as you do to farmers and their Unions, the NFU and FUW. However the Minister did say that the role of government is to support, it’s the government’s job to listen……………………….

I’d also love to know how many food stands he went to talk to in the food hall. According to my count there were 45 stands, in fact I ask the same question of all those who where there yesterday from the food policy team and wag food department. But just in case you are interested – Ian and I covered the lot and that was excluding our food shopping! It’s one on our rules that unless a food producer is with us on BOW we can’t purchase from them. So it was a brilliant bonus to have so many BOW there, especially when we don’t see some of them that often, I literally BOW food shop until I dropped. There were so many rumours going around the food hall, too many to cover here, including why was the former Head of Food spending so much time in the there. I don’t like the food hall; it’s as simple as that it’s a barn of a place with no atmosphere at all. The producers are restricted so much in what the can sell, no alcohol to drink there and then, no hot food over a couple of pounds. Nowhere for people to sit unless you were that tired you wanted to watch a cookery demo – bearing in mind the TV screen and overhead camera weren’t working when I stopped by. But there again that is obviously not what it wanted by RWAS and wag food. I’d always thought of this new expensive food hall as there to really showcase Welsh food and to tempt the Welsh public into buying their wares, not just on the days but where they can buy locally. But not for the first time I’m singing off my own hymn sheet – but over the last nine years ‘twas ever thus with wag food.

There were some superb stands in the food hall, not just on the quality of produce but the effort that had been put into their Christmas gift packaging and the decorations. Hours and hours of extra work and do wag food do a best trade stand? Well not as far as I know, but I do ask why not?  If only there was someone in wag food on my wavelength……….. I only I did spend so much of my time having to tell them where they are going wrong and why few producers have any faith in them.

So as I dislike the food hall that much and that’s before I even start on the high tradestand prices, how difficult it is for producers to get their goods in, parking for some of them, my latest ploy was to suggest some try the farmers’ market held outside the Members building. I wasn’t over struck on it last year and please don’t sigh and say I’m never satisfied, unless someone keeps pushing and raising standards, NOTHING will ever improve. So happy to play secretary to our BOW, we again circulated details of this market to all our producers, knowing it would help quite a few of them, and quite a few took it up. The layout was better this year just one straight run, there was some signage there, but not enough for me, but I do appreciate that RWAS are not the easiest to deal with, in fact, most of the time, they are impossible. But that’s who RWAS are. RWAS can do their own thing, as they answer only to themselves. One company selling pasties, Little Welsh Deli, wasn’t allowed to sell hot pasties, only cold. Can you believe that? I was on owner Ryan’s stand and he was asked three times – just whilst I was there, for warm pasties but had to say no and those people walked away grumbling about how stupid it was and I totally agree. Every market and festival I’ve seen Little Welsh Deli at they do hot food and they do samples of pasties as tasters to tempt the public, but not ‘allowed’ at the Winter Fair. Why? I believe that the RWAS get paid a fortune for the concession vans that are all over the showground and it is those traders that don’t want anyone else to sell hot food. How pathetic is that? At somewhere like the RWAS, you’ll have masses and masses of people all day long that don’t care about what they eat as long as they eat something – fair enough let them get on with it. But I want the Royal Welsh to offer local people and our visitors, and we are talking a minority here, those who want quality Welsh food, the chance to buy it and eat it there. Why does the RWAS insist on strangling our food producers and farmers, who only want to make a reasonable living?


The Winter Fair

21 Oct

As always the Winter Fair causes our office additional work as producers expect us to be able to answer their questions relating to this event. One producer, who is always on the ball, pointed out that he understood Fernleigh Design were certainly not the cheapest in supplying shell schemes and was this the reason the Food Hall stands prices are always so expensive? I’ve no idea whatsoever about the likely costings of shell schemes, so this could be totally untrue, but I was happy to follow through on his behalf. It is though confusing that we’ve heard from one source that wag are not running the Winter Fair Food Hall this year but from another source that they were. Thankfully it’s not just me that ends up confused and very dizzy from going around yet again in ever decreasing circles.

So this as far as I’ve got:

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:

“RWAS have managed this year’s contract with Fernleigh directly so it is not a Welsh Government contract.

“All Welsh Government contracts for exhibition and trade development support are  contracted through formal procurement frameworks which are advertised openly via Sell2Wales and the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) and  are renewed periodically. We will shortly advertise through these channels to renew the framework contracts for a new 3 year period.

“We are not yet in a position to comment on food festival funding in 2014.”

I thought that Fernleigh were under a 3 year contract with wag food to run the Winter Fair and the RWAS, but seemingly that cannot be the case as according to this statement RWAS have got this year’s contract, but it’s puzzling that I’ve been told wag food are running the Food Hall at the Winter Fair, how can that be? So I’m told shortly there will be a new tender up for grabs, but what does ‘shortly’ mean? Don’t bother giving me a clue.

As for wag food ‘not yet in a position to comment on food festival funding in 2014’ – when will they know? Well I’ll tell you what, I’ll go back yet again, because I have nothing more worthwhile to do today than chase wag, and I’ll ask for a timeline. Do you think wag will expect me to keep asking the same question………………………………


Cornish Ice-Cream At RWAS

19 Aug

If you’ve been following recent posts on the Royal Welsh show you’ll be aware that, as last year, I’m livid that a mobile van selling Cornish ice-cream was parked outside the Welsh food hall. Well my rant didn’t go unnoticed, as a food producer took the baton from me and raised my concerns with RWAS. This food producer didn’t attend the RWAS and their company do not make ice-cream, so there was no self-interest there. My thanks for this company helping out. They were rightly angry at this obvious lack of support for Welsh ice-cream producers and blatantly putting Cornish ice-cream in front of our Welsh visitors.

Pleased though that RWAS issued a prompt reply, which is shown below:

  • The ice-cream contacts go out to tender which is split into two halves; each half awarded 7 unit positions. We circulate to all companies that request tenders with a number being from Wales.
  • As we have been very happy with Real Dairy Ice Cream Company Ltd over the years we awarded a three year contract. This current contract predates the opening of the new food hall. The contract was for seven units and included the site in question.
  • After a complaint last year, we had discussions with the company who agreed to sell Welsh ice-cream from an unbranded unit as the site was still under contract. Unfortunately there was a technical problem with this unit so a branded unit had to be used but with a sign stating that the ice cream being supplied was from Franks Ice Cream Ammanford. 

As you can see from the above we have tried as best we can with a contract in place to remedy the situation.

I have to take on board what RWAS are saying, but what are RWAS’ priorities? Selling these ice-cream pitches to the highest bidder or supporting Welsh food producers? Can anyone guess the answer? I appreciate that RWAS went out to tender, but it would be interesting to know how many companies were told about the tender and how many tenders were received from UK and from Wales. I don’t mind quite as much if ice-cream vans are scattered about the show ground and they’re not Welsh. In my world of course they would be, but I’m trying to be realistic here and my annoyance is with the mobile van outside the food hall. My main objection and I will not accept excuses as to why this cannot happen, the ice-cream van outside the food hall not only should be selling ice cream from Wales, but it should be as clear as crystal that this mobile van is Welsh – not Cornish. My other question is why no-one at RWAS ever thought, before issuing their tender that only an ice cream van from Wales should be outside the food hall. This pitch should have been excluded from their tender and a Welsh ice cream producer should be awarded that slot. I believe this is not just basic commonsense it’s supporting Welsh producers at a Welsh show – easy peasy in my book. 

I think that this three year tender should be up for renewal for next year and I urge RWAS to not allow the food hall site to be included in the tender. This site must be allowed to go to a Welsh ice cream producer.  As the Royal Welsh Show you should be proud to shout that you are fully supporting Welsh producers and that means the ice cream guys too.

I don’t believe you’ll have an excuse not to put Welsh producers first next year, so please don’t let me down again and just try harder to get these things right.