I posted on 25th September about the Minister Alun Davies’ statement on Food & Drink strategy and we did send the statement to all our Best Of Welsh and Border producers to make sure they are aware of what is happening.
Apparently the Minister sees an urgent need to establish a Welsh Food and Drink Forum or Federation of people drawn from across the industry to provide strong leadership, vision and much closer working between government and business.
How and when this will happen, I’m really not sure.
He then states that wag tested the ‘Food and Drink Wales’ identity this year with a clear Welsh identity which has been well received by the trade. The consultation will be asking for views on further development of the new identity as well as how to strengthen and sustain it.
I have no idea whatsoever which producers the Minister means by ‘the trade’ whether he means it is the usual sector of the trade that has open and easy access to the decision makers in wag food, or if for once the micro and smaller producers were included to put forward their views.
The strategy will set the vision for both government and industry ensuring that both are accountable for delivering results. I will be setting out the proposed targets and milestones in the consultation and will welcome widespread debate. I want the food industry, stakeholders and Government to work together to achieve results and I am confident that together we can set our sights high and reach beyond our expectations.
A question was also asked in the Senedd about True Taste which to date has cost £4.2 million and which was abolished without consultation, sadly this wasn’t really clarified.
Overall, fine words but I’m sure I will not be alone in knowing I’ve heard similar ones before. I recall when wag ‘kindly’ asked us for our views for a Food Plan set up in 2010. I remember sitting for hours in a hotel in Pembrokeshire and the then Head of Food asking for our views after telling us wag were putting forward a 10 year plan for food. Many of us argued strongly that it was impossible in the current climate to create a plan for five years, let alone ten. But despite the ‘your views are important to us spiel’ we got a 10 year plan which surprisingly didn’t last the ten years!! Now we are on the roundabout once again, well in theory anyhow! So what do we do? Well that’s not an easy question to answer. I am well aware that some of you are so disheartened with wag food that you will do absolutely nothing, and of course that’s your choice. But if that’s your decision please don’t moan at me about wag food in the future. It is rare that wag food asks for your views and I’d be the last to stick up for them because you certainly haven’t any guarantee at all that they will listen and I do accept that. I also accept that producers, especially the smaller ones get the chance to pass their views to wag food, although I’d be the first to admit I’m never sure if producers are then ignored or if this is what you’d call paying lip service! But, I refuse to give up and say again, if you don’t try, don’t moan at me. Welsh producers and Welsh food are what we are all about, so let’s keep going……………….
I’ve asked wag’s press office what consultation process is going to happen and have been told that meetings are going to be arranged in the future. However one is being held with the new Head Of Food, Keith Smyton, again in Pembrokeshire, but that is just for Pembrokeshire producers. But this very morning Ian has just taken a call from one of our Best of Welsh & Borders producers, one who is based in Pembrokeshire and he knows nothing about it!!!! Ian gave him the details of the person he should speak to about being ignored, and I hope that is the only one they’ve missed out. This BOW producer had picked up about his meeting because we’d sent it around them all a soon as we’d got it. We’d received the meeting news, not from Pembrokeshire food department, but from a BOW producer who wanting to keep us in the loop, however the date and day of the meeting was incorrect. But thanks to those Pembrokeshire producers that kept me updated, much appreciated as always.
Early this week I asked Pembrokeshire Food dept. for press tickets to attend, but been told that it is for Pembrokeshire food producers only and that press and public are not allowed to attend. I don’t really know any Pembrokeshire public that would be interested sufficiently in food to want to give up an evening to attend, but to ban press is puzzling to say the least and in my view not at all helpful. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said this industry should work together more, but a reality check for me is required this is not the industry, this is Pembrokeshire one of only two Welsh counties that actually have a food officer.