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Posts Tagged ‘wales’

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.

 
 

Scottish Food Manufacturing Growing Twice As Fast As UK Average

08 Sep

Whilst I’m being bashed from pillar to post by wag food seemingly because I’m a journalist asking them questions they’ve no wish to answer, I’m chuffed that the Scottish Government are talking  to me. Mind you, if I were the Scottish Government I’d be broadcasting this news to all and sundry. Scotland says their annual turnover for the food and drink industry reached record levels of £14.4 billion in 2014. It makes sense that they wish to crow that these latest figures also reveal that their food manufacturing sector grew at twice the rate of the UK average, increasing by 43 per cent in Scotland compared to 21 per cent in the UK from 2008-2014. I’d like to give you the reciprocal figures from Wales, but ‘as yet’ I’ve not been sent any and haven’;t bothered asking them for those figures either!

On 4th September, at the start of Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing said: “The food and drink sector continues to be one of our most successful and that success shows no sign of slowing down. The industry is vital to Scotland – it creates jobs and wealth, impacts on health and sustainability, and helps attract people to the country by promoting our food and drink around the globe. This record turnover means that the sector is making good progress towards meeting the 2017 target of £16.5 billion, which has been set by Scotland Food & Drink. We are committed to doing all we can in government to support the growth of food and drink production and the contribution it makes to Scotland’s economy. Behind all of these figures are the drive and determination of the people who make up the industry – their hard work is key to ensuring, that Scotland’s food and drink is a success.”

Scotland Food & Drink Chief Executive James Withers also welcomed the announcement. Withers said: “These are great figures and testament to a transformation in food and drink activity in Scotland over the last few years. The sector is not without challenges and uncertainty, but for a sector whose growth was stagnant a few years ago, this has been a major turnaround. The Scottish industry is now being recognised internationally for how it has embraced collaboration to grow, forging a stronger global reputation for our products. Opportunities still abound at home and overseas. We’re investing in developing new customers across the UK and in key international markets. That work, alongside deeper partnership working between different industry bodies and government, will be the key to success in the coming years and central to a new 2030 strategy to be launch early next year.”

Now let me start off by saying Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, well what a great idea, when is Welsh  Food & Drink Fortnight? Well that’s a good question, but do we have a Welsh Food & Drink Fortnight? Or is this something Welsh Country magazine and welshfoodbites.co.uk has missed? We are here with a huge passion to support Welsh food and drink so it would be a poor deal if we’ve not been told about it. Scotland’s Food & Drink target for 2017 is £16.5 billion, and they remain committed as a government to support the growth of food and drink production and the contribution it makes to Scotland’s economy. To me this is great news for Scotland and makes me think in the Scottish government is not just words from them but action to ensure their food and drink industry does grow. My fear for Wales, as it has been for far too long, is Wales is good on words, but fails on actual action. In my view we lack joined up writing. Yes of course Wales has action plans, I’ve lost count of how many action plans we’ve had over the last decade, my concern is that Wales seems to lack the capacity to turn any action plan into growth.

 

 
 

Who Are Welsh Food Festivals For?

10 Jun

Please don’t think this is a silly question, it’s not it’s a serious one. Festivals are firstly for food and drink producers and that must be the priority because without their support we literally don’t have a food festival do we? Then Visit Wales will say our festivals are to attract our visitors. That I agree with, just wish Visit Wales would help festivals more on that front. Smaller festivals will also say it’s to bring their community together whilst still encouraging visitors too.

Hopefully we are agreed on those points, but another one is encouraging locals to buy their produce locally, using our wealth of artisan producers. Of course we have farmers’ markets that locals use, but in fairness they are very much a mixed bunch. Some are brilliant with local producers selling a wide range of locally sourced and hand-made products. Other markets, well lets just say they need improving, but to do that they also need the backing of councils as well as the support of local people. Now as I keep mentioning local, I have in my head food miles. I love using markets and festivals because I know that ‘most,’ but not all producers, are from that local area. I refuse to buy fishcakes from the south coast when I know how tough a time our local fishermen are having, likewise I will not buy garlic from the Isle of Wight when garlic is a product that can be grown here in Wales.

But my reason for this post is being told each year of food festival organisers who are refusing professional local producers stands at their events. Often its producers that have supported those festivals not just for years, but for decades, then to find their loyalty is rewarded by being thrown out. I don’t understand it. There are a number of festivals still playing this sad game, but best I not name them in case other events, like Abergavenny food festival, refuse me press tickets. I’m only raising these issues again because it is time these things changed AND, if producers tackled organisers directly, even if they’re polite, chances are they’ll never get back into that festival again.

Organisers are often vague when they reject a stand, so could it be true that they are full, but then we don’t regulars, especially locals get back in or is it simply down to a clash of personalities? Perhaps organisers forget that our professional food producers are doing this to earn a living, earning at festivals let’s them feed their kids and pay their rent or mortgage. Organisers tossing them out of an event they’ve planned and budgeted for at the start of the year, means they’ll have to try and find an alternative event for that weekend. An event could be 20, 30, 40, or 50 miles away, which just isn’t green?

My other whinge is that some organisers are giving stands to producers that I’ve dubbed, ‘Pin Money Producers’. These are people who already work a full time job, but apply and get stands at weekends to earn some extra cash, which I guess is building the Welsh black market. Ian and I often acquire flyers and business cards for traders we’ve not seen before, but usually these are the ones that never have them! If they’re not busy we’ll ask them about their business, which is usually when we label them ‘Pin Money Producers’. These are not businesses, they are not professional traders and no way should they be allowed to trade at a Welsh Government funded event. Some of these producers are actually buying from the cash and carry and re-packaging the contents of their purchases. How can tricks and deceptions like this showcase the best of Welsh food and drink which is what our visitors are expecting to see, taste and purchase?

Please don’t think I’m just attacking organisers, I’m not. I appreciate their skills in bringing a food festival together. I’ve been visiting festivals for over ten years and count many organisers that I see and speak to regularly as friends, they’re so easy to talk too and they do listen. It’s a tough job running a festival and I appreciate wag food offer very little help to these hard working people. Either they are too busy to do so, or they’ve other more important priorities. I understand that if someone new applies for a stand, it takes a lot of effort to work out if they are a genuine business or not, plus I fully accept it’s no good asking wag food if they have heard of them to help you make a decision. I wish there was an easier way to sort this professional versus ‘Pin Money Producers’ but is raising these instances with the HMRC the only way left to stop them?

I think I can sum up in saying we’ve still not got joined up writing on food festivals and my concern is will we ever achieve that?

 
 

Is Food & Drink Still Important To Wales?

20 May

I’m asking this question after looking at the Welsh First Minister’s new cabinet. We have some Minister posts that seem to be upgraded to  Cabinet Secretaries and these include: Economy, Health, Finance, Education, Communities and Children, and Environment and Rural Affairs. Then there are Junior Ministers for Skills & Science, Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language and Social Services and Public Health.

The Welsh Government state that they have an Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014-2020 which has an ambitions target to achieve growth for the sector of 30% by 2020. In light of these targets research is being undertaken to investigate how individual sub sectors which contribute to the wider food and drink economy are performing. From this an industry baseline will be developed and used to monitor trends and track changes in the sectors going forward. This will yield a greater understanding of how specific sub sectors in the Welsh food and drink sector are growing and performing.  

Some people believe the Government’s statement …..but many wonder how wag will achieve it. It appears that Welsh food and drink isn’t worthy of its own Minister, let alone a Cabinet Secretary but once again Welsh food and drink is still being lumped alongside agriculture & fisheries in Environment and Rural Affairs. To me it seems a huge portfolio to encompass food and drink as well and as always the danger is food and drink will not get the attention it deserves which makes the target of 30% growth a tough target to get.
The new government is as follows:

Carwyn Jones – First Minister
Ken Skates – Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
Vaughan Gething – Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
Mark Drakeford – Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
Kirsty Williams – Cabinet Secretary for Education
Lesley Griffiths – Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Carl Sargeant – Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
Jane Hutt – Leader of the House and Chief Whip
Julie James – Minister for Skills and Science
Alun Davies – Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language
Rebecca Evans – Minister for Social Services and Public Health

Yesterday, Ian and I met some tourists that live in the home counties. The couple are regular visitors to Wales and also to Cornwall where their son and his family live. Their comments where interesting as they were complaining they couldn’t get fresh fish & seafood in Wales. They can get fresh fish & seafood in Cornwall so easily, and of course there are there endless fish restaurants, but Wales is failing in this are. Doing our PR for Welsh food and drink we gave them a copy of Welsh Country magazine and highlighted a couple of excellent companies: Cardigan Bay Fish & Solva Seafood. But as Wales is surrounded by the sea on 3 sides, why can’t Wales have fresh seafood available in every seaside town?

Obviously I can’t blame wag for everything, but this is their problem and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get fresh Welsh caught fish & seafood. This glaring problem will not help wag to achieve their target growth of 30%.

 
 

Is There Really A £5k Grant Limit for Food Festivals?

11 May

I’m still trying to find out which food festivals are getting funding. As I asked the Welsh Government Press Office again yesterday, they told me that this year there is just one Tier of support  withing the Food Festivals Grant Scheme instead of three Tiers as was used last year.  The Press Office also said that there is a maximum grant of £5k per festival and apparently the total budget for this year is £160k. I’m told that details of the scheme for this year were sent directly to producers, including those who have previously had funding.

For regular readers I’m sure it goes without saying that yet again I’m perplexed with how wag food are allocating food festivals funding this year. If there’s £160k in this budget, when last year, according to my figures the budget was £137,571. So not only has this budget not been cut again this year, it’s actually been increased. In these tight times, how does a food budget get an increase? My other worry is being told that all festivals can apply for a maximum of £5k. That again to me makes no sense when last year that’s the amount Abergavenny Xmas Fair got, whilst the main Abergavenny festival was awarded £14,350 and Conwy food festival were awarded £15,255. Both Abergavenny and Conwy were running under Tier 3.  But with only Tier 1 running this year I can’t imagine these two festivals being very happy. Are there other sources open to these two larger festivals for funding, apart from the Major Events Unit   Budget?  So with an increased budget of £160k and a maximum of £5k, just want to know how many ifestivals are being run across Wales this year. Will some of this budget be spent elsewhere? If that’s the case where’s that likely to be?

Questions, questions, questions……if only a civil servant would give me the answers. I was at a food event last weekend and was asked numerous times what was wag food doing about food festivals. The message hasn’t got through to all our producers that I do not have a hot line to wag food, I actually wish my line to the Press Office was hotter than it is, but there we are! So my response is now a cheeky – how would I know? I’m simply a journalist and editor for Welsh Country magazine, a magazine that’s so supportive of Welsh food and drink, why would wag food think that telling me what’s happening would be a good idea? It’s obvious to me that it would be a good iddea but obviously in their world it isn’t. Much better that I keep pestering the Press Office so they can ask wag food and then come back to me, so I can go back to them. In my view it’s a waste of time but then I’m not a civil servant guaranteed getting paid each month.

This is a sorry situation we are in and yes, I still maintain communication is the key, it just looks like wag food has lost that key, if they ever had it………………………..

I shall of course post any further updates, but suggest no breath holding!

 
 

Where’s This Year’s Food Festival Funding?

05 Apr

I was not going to post about food festival funding again, as since 2011 this has been a regular post and achieved nothing apart from highlighting wag foods lack of concern for the food festival organisers that work so hard for Welsh food and drink. Well that was my plan but after being asked constantly by food and drink producers and some organisers – this ongoing problem needs airing yet again.

However despite my best intnetions to get wag foo to recognise this is a serious problem, raising this issue doesn’t hit home with wag food. Them not knowing about food festival funding doesn’t lower their monthly pay packet, it doesn’t cause them any stress or worry and ‘should’ they attend any farmers’ markets, our Welsh food and drink producers will not know them, so no questions will be asked of them. Perhaps that explains wag foods’ apathy on this issue.

Over the last weeks I’ve attended Haverfordwest and Aberystwyth farmers’ markets and at both of those markets I was asked what was happening about food festivals, were festivals being funded this year as I’d not sent them a list of which festivals were being funded. So you see producers think it is down to me to send them a list of festivals that are being funded, it’s not wag food’s job to tell producers what’s happening regarding funding. I’m really not sure whether to be angry or sad as it seems to me our producers just don’t expect wag food to communicate to them – it’s still apprently down to me. It’s a pity  some of our producers haven’t grasped that wag food tell me nothing and the press office tell me very little either. Just because I publish Welsh Country magazine that covers the whole of Wales and focuses heavily on Welsh food and drink, why should wag food tell me what’s happening and keep me in the proverbial Welsh food and drink loop? Answers on a postcard on that one guys.

For those organisers running early in the year, it’s vital for them to know if they are getting funding and how much. I don’t think asking about food festival funding is unreasonable questions, but the problem is they are asking the wrong person. But in fairness I don’t know any food producer who is brave enough to ask wag food themselves? Makes me think of don’t disturb the sleeping giant! If I was dishing out food festival money, festivals would have been told what was happening at the end of last year. There has to be a way to plan ahead, even with budgets I cannot accept that wag food make no effort to do that. Wag food’s lack of concern and understanding for food festival organisers, is beyond belief. Without food festival organisers, we’d have no food festivals and they would not stand a hope of making the targets set for them by this government. So it’s way past time that wag food treated our organisers with some respect.

So feeling pushed into tackling this old problem once again, on 22nd March I emailed the wag press office as I’m now allowed to contact them. I was then told that they weren’t sure about timings on food festival funding, but they will make sure that Welsh Country will receive any press release ‘when/if it is issued’. I was also told that wag will be entering the pre-election period from early April and the press office will be unable to issue press releases during the run up to the National Assembly elections on May 5th.

On being told this I went back to the press office as they’d obviously not realised that if they can’t answer my question by return, I need to know when they can do so. But I was told once again that they can’t issue press releases during the pre-election period, perhaps that was necessary in case I hadn’t understood that the first time. My point remains that even if they can’t issue a press release until after the elections, why can’t wag food tell the organisers NOW how much funding they’ll get? I cannot believe that wag food haven’t got that information sorted yet, but as it’s wag food, maybe they haven’t. But seriously what’s so difficult about doing that? We have festivals running in May and June, it’s now April and organsiers don’t know if they are getting any funding. If festivals didn’t need funding, I doubt very much they’d bother jumping through wag food’s many hoops, but they’ve done their paperwork, it’s been completed and all they can do is wait and wait and wait………………………………………..

I was promised they’d find out some more information for me timing wise, but nothing through so far, despite a further reminder to the press office on 30/3.

How this system or lack of a system gets changed, I no longer know. I’ve always thought my views and comments about food festivals and their funding has been constructive and helpful, but wag food can’t agree as no changes have really been made. After five years of trying, perhaps the sensible option is to accept that I’ve been wasting my time and wag food are too stuck in a rut to imporve their system of funding. Wag’s solutions looks to be doing endless surveys through Wavehill, but that’s gone nowhere, just cost us more money and annoys producers.

For those of us that care about food festivals and in theory that should include wag food, letting organisers know about funding early on is vital. I believe we lost 2 good, early running festivals over the years in huge part because of this problem. I totally despair of this department’s failure to let festivals know whether they’ve got funding from wag or not. It is simply not acceptable. This department never seems to learn anything. Goodness knows for sure how many surveys wag food have paid for and how mnay times this issue of not knowing about funding has been raised, but nothing changes. Which makes me ask about surveys, why do them when wag food seem to ignore them?

When wag food have the time and inclination to reveal which festivals have been funded, I shall as always email the list to our Best Of Welsh & Border producers – as it will save wag food a job – sorry poor joke we know wag food don’t do that!

 

 
 

Yet More Wavehill

08 Dec

Goodness knows when this Wavehill/food festival funding saga will end. I would hope when we got some answers, but obviously with wag food in control, that is not a given. My surprise is that Wavehill last week were ringing organisers of wag funded festivals and asking them in essence for their feedback. Well I’m not sure organisers are not too busy in December to talk to Wavehill for maybe an hour, but then what do I know? In previous years, I understood that organisers had to complete paperwork and send it in to wag, but the questions being asked by Wavehill, could they already have answered them? My thoughts lie with our organisers as many of them are volunteers, unlike those lucky people at Wavehill who do get paid. I also thought that organisers are asked some of these questions on their grant applications, so why duplicate them? It’s a wag criteria that festivals have to have 75% Welsh stands to qualify for funding so shouldn’t the organisers have to send in a detailed list of stand holders, stating which are Welsh, before they get paid by wag? I do wonder how many times organisers have been asked the same questions and how many of them feel why they are being asked questions because nothing really improves. But the penny has now dropped, perhaps Wavehill are simply justifying their wag fee and we are no doubt guilty of forgetting the boxes that wag are ticking.

Follows is what is sent through to them to give them ‘guidance’ before Wavehill make their call!

Evaluation of Food Festivals Supported by the Welsh Government
Discussion Guide – consultations

This document

First of all, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.

This is a discussion guide for the interview we would like to undertake with you as part of the above evaluation. We would be grateful if you can find a few minutes to read through it in advance of the interview.

The guide includes some background information about the evaluation and also a list of questions that we would like to discuss. This discussion guide is however exactly that – a guide to the issues that we would like to cover during the interview. We would, of course, be happy to consider any other issues which you feel are relevant.

Some background

Wavehill have been commissioned by the Welsh Government to undertake monitoring and an evaluation of food festivals supported by Welsh Government funding.

The final report of the evaluation will be produced in early 2016 and this interview is being undertaken as part of the fieldwork for that report.

We anticipate that the interview should take around 30-40 minutes depending of course on how much you have to contribute. As you can appreciate, we will be interviewing a wide range of people as part of the evaluation. Accordingly, some of the questions listed may not be applicable to you; we will of course focus on those questions which are relevant to you.

Any comments that you make will be confidential and the information you provide will only be used for the purposes of this evaluation. Comments that you make will not be attributed to you unless we have your explicit permission to do that. It is also important to note that the team undertaking the evaluation do not work for the Welsh Government or any of the organisations that are involved in the delivery or funding of this project. This is an independent evaluation.

Questions for discussion

1. As an introduction, can you please introduce your role as it relates to Welsh Food and Drink Festivals?

Project aspirations and strategic position
2. How would you describe the main underlying purpose of your festival?
3. How do you know if you’ve been successful in achieving this?
4. Do you have any other aims apart from this?

Delivery

5. How did you hear about the Welsh Government investment in food festivals this year i.e. the 2015 programme?
6. How did you go about applying for this funding? What timescale did you have to complete the application?
7. In your opinion, how do you think the application process could be improved?
8. What new elements/ideas/innovations have you tried at the Food Festival this year? How successful were they? (if festival has now taken place)
9. What methods and materials did you use to promote your event this year?

10. I’d like to discuss in detail questions relating to exhibitors, suppliers and staff at your festival:
a) Approximately, what proportion of exhibitors are promoting Welsh food and drink?
b) What proportion of exhibitors are based in Wales?
c) What proportion of Welsh exhibitors would you describe as local to you (live within same local authority)?
d) How were suppliers of operational elements procured for your event? Was this process effective?
e) As an estimate, what proportion of suppliers are local to you, i.e. live within same local authority?
f) How many paid staff (i.e. those not volunteering their time) were employed to organise this year’s festival?
g) What was the total cost of this employment?

Working together

11. Do you think Welsh food festivals could work together more on procurement? For example, this could include negotiating joint contracts with event supplies. If so, what would it take to make this happen?
12. Do you think Welsh food festivals could work together more to attract sponsors. For example, this could include developing overarching joint branding and having sponsors across multiple events. Is so, what would it take to make this happen?
13. Do you think Welsh food festivals could work together more on promoting events? For example, this could include having a joint website and promoting a directory of festivals.
14. Are there any other ways food festivals might benefit from working together?
15. Do you currently collaborate with any other food festival in any way?
16. Do you collaborate at a strategic level with any large food suppliers or retailers?
17. Do you collaborate at a strategic level with Visit Wales or any other tourist organisations?
18. What is the one thing Welsh Government could do to help food festivals and other strategic partners work together more?

Do you have anything to add on an issue we’ve discussed or would you like to raise an issue we have not discussed?

Thank you for your time

Need more information?

You can find more information about Wavehill on our website: www.wavehill.com. All our researchers work within the Market Research Society’s Code of Conduct (http://www.mrs.org.uk/standards). If you have any questions or queries about either the interview or the evaluation more generally, or if you have any feedback on the way the interview was undertaken please feel free to contact Oliver Allies (t: 01545 571711 e: oliver.allies@wavehill.com) or Mark Willis (t: 01545 277 913 e: mark.willis@wavehill.com) at Wavehill. Alternatively, you can contact Dilys Parker (t:0300 062 2203 ǀ e Dilys.Parker@Wales.GSI.Gov.UK
So Wavehill are telling organisers that they are undertaking monitoring and an evaluation of food festivals supported by Welsh Government funding. But in answering my FOI 9881 wag are telling me:

1. Which 6 Festivals are being evaluated and why were these 6 selected?
We do not hold any information regarding this point. To clarify, we are not carrying out evaluation of individual festivals. Those festivals visited are for the purpose of visitor surveys.

So why are wag splitting hairs here? Wag tells me under a Freedom Of Information answer that they are not carrying out evaluation of individual festivals. However Wavehill are telling festival organisers that they have been commissioned by the Welsh Government to undertake monitoring and an evaluation of food festivals supported by Welsh Government funding. How confusing this all is. How can Wavehill tell organisers that the team undertaking this evaluation do not work for the Welsh Government or any of the organisations that are involved in the delivery or funding of this project – so this is an independent evaluation! Really? How can Wavehill, who are being paid by the Welsh Government £35k COULD not be ‘working’ for them? Would they be doing this evaluation for wag if they hadn’t won this tender? Another question is would Wavehill be doing all this if wag weren’t paying them at all?

It’s such a shame that year after year wag food, in my opinion anyway, always makes funding of food festivals so complicated, so much work seems to be duplicated. I ask wag food questions – and I have had to ask because wag food find communication difficult – then they struggle to tell the truth. I think this is yet another wag food shambles and they need to seriously re think food festival funding if as they say Welsh food and drink is so important to Wales.

 
 

Welsh Food Festival Calendar

29 Sep

The question is why hasn’t Wales got a calendar for festivals they are ‘willing’ to fund?
I was told, not directly of course, that a Food Festival Committee/s was being formed, but as there is still no festival calendar, you might well wonder if this committee did get of the ground. Well I think it has and my reasoning on this is as follows: If I can take you back to last year when all food festivals were told the maximum amount they could apply for was £10k as wag keep saying that food festivals need to be self-funding. £10k maximum was a bitter pill for some of the big festivals to swallow and I was told, though this has not been officially confirmed either, that Abergavenny festival actually had a meeting with the then Food Minister. I’ve also been told, though yet again, not officially, that Abergavenny Chair one of the Regional Committees.

So roll onto this year and low and behold the maximum festivals can apply for:
Tier 1 – Funding of up to £5,000 at 50% of eligible costs.
Tier 2 – Funding of up to £10,000 at 50% of eligible costs.
Tier 3 – Funding of up to £25,000 at 50% of eligible costs.

Perhaps it’s only me that’s confused. Maybe festivals are only ‘told’ by wag food that they have to attempt to be self-funding. But then last year Abergavenny did refuse me press tickets on the grounds that: This year we have undertaken a review of all the complimentary tickets we give out to various people and organisations. We have done this as part of our continued efforts to become financially self-sustainable. For this reason we are not able to offer you complimentary press passes this year.

Other press got complimentary tickets so that doesn’t ring true does it?

So mixed messages here, or maybe it’s just me not understanding civil service thinking. Anyway back to a festival calendar and to a topic that I’ve raised before but sadly no-one in power, i.e. wag food, accepts this is a problem. Which is proof, if proof were still needed, that wag food have no conception of the problems producers face. But this issue could easily be solved and without costing wag food any extra cash, just create a workable food festival calendar of festivals that they are funding.

This Saturday there are festivals at Brecon, Neath and Newport and all three funded by wag. Brecon are getting a pathetic £4k, but Neath and Newport don’t fare much better with £5k. I’m guessing all three asked for more, but wag said no. So we’ve three popular festivals, reasonably close to each other, all running the same weekend. My question is the same as it’s always been, why, oh why is this still happening? Micro producers have no choice but to select one festival, although medium – larger producers can often get a second team out. Obviously wag has nothing to do with festivals that aren’t funded, but that’s not the issue here, I’m talking purely funded festivals and I despair why wag can’t exert some control over the festivals that they do fund.

In the past I have challenged wag food about a festival calendar and was told that dates were nothing to do with wag, a comment I find ridiculous. Festivals are for producers, locals and visitors, but first and foremost festivals are for our Welsh food and drink producers, otherwise without their support you cannot hold a food festival. If wag food say to these three festivals they can apply for funding, but will not be offered funding unless dates are changed, that would solve this problem. It’s an obvious that producers need to be able to attend as many festivals as possible, but wag food are prepared to stand back and ignore this issue.  Brecon has been running on the same weekend for decades, so in my view that weekend is theirs and I’m just disappointed that Neath and Newport also decided to set up on the same weekend as Brecon. If these other two festivals were held in the norht there wouldn’t be the same problem, but so close – it is a nuisance. Neath have developed a very successful festival that now runs over 3 days. The Neath team have been clever and do a great job, but that only serves to further annoy the producers who are loyal to Brecon. Newport started after Neath, but again went for the same weekend. Newport is not one I’ve  attended, but can’t anyone else understand how annoyed producers are that some of them are missing out on Neath and Newport due to this clash of dates.

Sorting out a food festival calendar is hardly a tough job, but sadly it’s prove too tought for wag or perhaps they are simpy not interested enough to help producers on this one. I’m very disappointed that the Food Festival Committees have not tackled this problem, but clever them, they’ve at least got wag to pushed the funding up to a maximum of £25k this year for the larger events.

I do though wonder how many years I’ll be ranting on about the lack of a food festival calendar………

 
 

Welsh Farmers Unhappy With UK Meat Levy System

18 Sep

I’ve just been updated about a recent meeting in Welshpool covering how farmers in Wales are being treated unfairly by the meat levy system. Farmers are angry over the unjust set-up which sees Welsh money drain across the border to England. Amongst people attending the meeting were: FUW president Glyn Roberts,  FUW Montgomeryshire chairman Mark Williams, Dunbia’s Wyn Williams and Peter Morris of 2 Sisters.

This unfairness by the meat levy system is affecting Wales’ the ability to promote Welsh Lamb in the face of stiff competition. FUW leaders discussed low lamb prices amongst other issues, when they met with meat processor bosses. FUW said their concern focused on the iniquity of the meat levy system in which a large proportion of Welsh levy payments end up across the border in England.

The current system means that levies collected from farmers and processors stay in the country in which animals are slaughtered rather than where they are reared. The FUW has been lobbying for a decade for fairer levy distribution but little progress has been made. Wales suffers hugely as slaughter capacity has fallen and so has the levy money received by Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), the Welsh red meat promotion body. Following the closure of the Vion plant in Gaerwen in 2013 it is estimated HCC’s red meat levy funding drop by around £500,000. HCC’s levy funding does not come close to reflecting the number of animals born and raised in Wales and HCC believes that fall in levy revenue has affected its ability to market Welsh lamb products.

There was also annoyance at the slow progress with getting Welsh produce into the US market. It is obvious that there are many other factors affecting the lamb price that are beyond the industry’s control, such as the value of sterling, but there are others that must be improved such as better meat product development which was much needed, the supply chain had to address the imbalance in demand for different cuts and also to see changes to the regulations on carcass splitting which is scientifically unjustified and severely undermines the prices farmers receive.

The Welshpool meeting appears to have been interesting one, but the ongoing frustration of our farmers cannot, and shouldn’t be underestimated. In my view it’s more than time that the powers-that-be get their act together and support our Welsh farmers whilst we still have a farming industry.

Welsh food and drink is supposed to be important to our economy isn’t it?

 
 

FOI 9675 Update

28 Aug

Apart from the time delay – i.e. 20 days to get a response, FOIs or Freedom Of Information questions are one way I am able, in theory anyway, to get some questions answered. Quite often these are questions asked of me by our advertisers who have no wish to ask wag food/visitwales themselves.

Instead of getting my question fully answered, I was directed to a wag website. Fair enough, I’d hate for wag to have to duplicate work just because I asked them questions. So on their site I found 4 document downloads, but then could only open one, whilst all the other came up as 404s – basically pages not found.

So back to wag person and explained the problem and asked for the three unobtainable downloads to be emailed to me. I also copied him all the pdfs details and highlighted the ones I couldn’t open and suggesting he talk to his techy people, assuming wag have a full technical team. I was then told:

Having checked the link provided in my reply, I am satisfied that it is working and connects to previous financial years when you select the relevant PDF. However, I have assumed that the 3 restaurants you haven’t found are Catch 22 – £70k funding; Enoteca – £30k; and Venu – £38,250 – for which you have my apologies – I did not realise that they had yet to be posted on our website, as they are in the current financial year (and will be published in due course).

So not sure where logic comes in here, that I can open one out of four documents, but basically I’m told that I’m wrong and the remaining 3 are not sent to me.
Back once again to be told this time:
The following link should work on the Welsh Government website either follow – Home > Topics > Tourism > Tourism investment support scheme (TISS) or –
http://gov.wales/topics/tourism/tourism-investment-support-scheme/?lang=en

But just to remind you, the link below is the site I was first directed to. If any of you can see a difference – email me!
http://gov.wales/topics/tourism/tourism-investment-support-scheme/?lang=en.

Back I go to repeat myself again and suggest once more that he emails them to me.
The response on the fourth occasion is:
I’m sorry you are not able to access the PDFs, my only suggestion is that I print them off and send a hard copy to yourself. What is the best address to send them to?

Someone please give me strength. Each email I have sent included quite clearly in the footer all my details, including my address! Obviously my address was not clear enough, so to be helpful I highlighted each email when I sent a further email suggesting he emails me these pesky documents downloads.

The final response was: Please find attached the relevant PDF’s. (Bryn Williams place is listed as Shel Restaurant). I have asked our web publishers to investigate why you haven’t been able to access the information direct from the website.

Well it has been interesting perusing the last four grant years and my unofficial summary shows that in 2011/12 £2.981m was granted to 74 outlets averaging £40k. In 2012/13 the figure was £2.235m to 48 outlets averaging £46.5k. In 2013/14 the figure was £1.496m given to 30 outlets averaging £50k but two outlets were awarded £450k and £250k. In 2014/15 the figure given out was £2.109m to 31 outlets averaging £68k.

These grants make me wonder. Why have they not been slashed as much as our Welsh food and drink budgets have? Also how great it is for these businesses to be given so much money to improve, in many cases, their properties and their businesses. Can this be considered to be propping up their businesses? Or is this a clever way to say these grant are money well spent because tourists will now flock to Wales?