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Posts Tagged ‘Welsh Country magazine’

Wales To Host Great Taste Judging Roadshow

18 Nov

Regular readers will not be surprised – that wag food didn’t tell me this – but Lesley Griffiths, Wag’s Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, has announced that Wales will host judging of Great Taste 2017’s Welsh entries to Great Taste 2017 on home soil.

The judging will form part of the eight week process where 10,000 products from the UK and beyond will be assessed by hundreds of independent judges.

Apparently the Cabinet Secretary announced the news at a celebration event for 2016’s Welsh Great Taste winners but seemingly her team didn’t think this worthy news to tell the Welsh media. Obviously no publicity required.

It remains a mystery to me that wag food still have learnt how to communicate to Welsh food and drink producers or the Welsh media. For me it is commonsense but as we frequently say in our Welsh Country magazine office, commonsense is not commonly available, and certainly not, it appears in wag food. That’s such a shame as it’s another opportunity lost and with Welsh food and drink supposedly being so important to wag, you have to ask why this is?

You really couldn’t make this up …………………….

 

 
 

Great Taste Awards, Freedom Question No. 10815

26 Oct

Great Taste Awards are now the leading food awards in Wales following the abandonment of the True Taste Awards, of which much has been posted on this blog.

When wag – in it’s ‘wisdom’ – decided it would drop the True Taste Awards there was huge consternation amongst food and drink producers. The main sticking point was that producers were not allowed any input to wag food before they made their decision. Well let’s be honest, there’s no change there, as wag food do not communicate with producers, a fact we’ve established and tried to change, but to no avail. Our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers are always sent any food press releases I receive but that is very few indeed. But we do send around by email any food and drink related items that we think might be useful to our BOW producers. Anyway back the Great Taste Awards, (GTA). I’ve been asked so many times what is wag’s involvement and what does amuse me is producers think wag food actually tell me. Oh, if only that actually happened, then I wouldn’t have to send through so many Welsh food and drink related questions through the Freedom Of Information, (FOI)  system. But the fact of the matter is we are where we are, wag food don’t talk to me so I have no other option but to use the FOI system. Here’s my latest one and I’ve published this in full apart from the obligatorypiece where wag food tell me if I’m not happy I can ask for a review, which wag food then call a complaint and only if I’m then still not satisfied I can go to the Information Commissioners Office. So here are the questions asked and wag food’s answers:

The information you requested is below.

  1. How much money has the Welsh Government given to the Guild of Fine Food for the years 2015 & 2016?
  2. What proportion of this is targeted specifically at the Great Taste Awards?

The Guild of Fine Food has received £49,080 from the Welsh Government for the years 2015 and 2016 with £4,800 targeted specifically at the Great Taste Awards, see below.

2015/16 £44,280 19/04/15 Hosting Great Taste judging of Welsh entries

2015/16 £ 2,400 29/06/15 Sponsorship for 2015 Awards

2016/17 £ 2,400 08/04/16 Sponsorship for 2016 Awards

In June 2015, the Welsh Government hosted the judging of Welsh entries over a three day period at the St David’s Hotel, Cardiff Bay. The judging, which was arranged and staged by the Guild of Fine Food, hosted up to 70 judges including food writers, bloggers, chefs, producers and buyers.

  1. What were the Welsh Government’s objectives in giving money to the Great Taste Awards?

The overall objective in sponsoring the awards and hosting the judging of the Welsh entries in 2015 was to further raise the profile and awareness of the range of highly innovative, quality and great tasting food and drink produced in Wales.

  1. How were the Welsh Government’s objectives achieved?

Our objectives were achieved by inviting the press and media to the judging; having journalists and food critics visit Wales; undertaking case studies of previous winners; issuing press notices; and through social media, national and regional print.

  1. How were the Welsh Government’s objectives measured?

In supporting the above elements of the Great Taste Awards, we have been able to raise the profile of Welsh successes in the awards. More than 4.5 million people were reached through online and print coverage, measured using print and online circulation figures and radio listening-ship figures.

The Great Taste Awards website, has on average 7,500 visitors per calendar month, and featured our Welsh winners. The Guild of Fine Food promoted the Judging in Wales through their social media channel, @guildoffinefoods with 18,500 followers, and also through press notices.

Yours sincerely

Deputy Director Food Division

Well let me start at the end of my reply from the Deputy Director Food Division, well not signed which I find rather rude, but who is the DDFD? Well waste more time Kath and search Google to find out that this posh title belongs to a Mr. David Morris. But shall I ignore the fact that my reply was only dated as October – with actually no date…………………..

Anyway back to the core of this post. The bonus of sending through an FOI is that I must get a response within 20 days, which to me a long time, but I do appreciate how busy our civil servants are and I do know the timescale. However I’m looking at wag food’s figures and still wondering what this £50k over two years has achieved. To be told wag hosted the judging of Welsh entries in 2015, in Cardiff of course, for up to 70 judges, including food writers, bloggers, chefs, producers and buyers seriously made me chuckle as this is the Welsh government who have told me on a very regular basis that – The Welsh Government doesn’t engage with the blogging community. I can only assume then in this case it was the Great Taste organisers that invited members of the blogging community!

So how were wag food’s objectives achieved? Well inviting the press and media to the judging; having journalists and food critics, undertaking case studies of previous winners; issuing press notices; and through social media, national and regional press. Oh dear, so where does that leaves Welsh Country magazine? www.welshcountry.co.uk. Still out in the cold I can hear you yelling and I would have to agree. In 2015 and 2016 I was not invited to the judging as a member of press, although in 2015 I was invited to judge. I declined that offer as I had always understood GTA judges were top chefs, food critics or expert food and drink producers, so I didn’t think I qualified to judge such an important competition, but that’s another learning curve for me. I’d also like to know in column inches how much national and regional print was achieved. To say more than 4.5 million people reached through online and print coverage is vague to say the least and I’d prefer a more detailed breakdown, but there we are – that’s only my take on it.

 
 

Guess What? Another Food Festival Organiser Conference …….

23 Sep

My thanks to the thoughtful person who sent me details of a Welsh Food Festival Conference being held next month and organised by wag food. Apparently wag food are holding another conference because the one held earlier this year was such a success. It’s no surprise to me hearing second-hand about this conference because that’s how I found out about the first one. That’s what happens when you’re not on wag food’s mailing list! Wag food must have their own agenda for not telling a journalist who is so supportive of Welsh food and drink that this conference was happening. Welsh Country magazine is trying its best to back Welsh food and drink, it’s just a shame wag food don’t understand that. So of course I’m back on my soapbox about the lack of communication and just wishing wag food could grasp that communication really is the key.

Would it be too difficult to send out to food journalist the agenda and minutes or outcomes of these conferences? Sorry that was a stupid question because it hasn’t happened, wag food obviously not thinking it worth their time. After all it does take time sending out a couple of emails………………..

Wag Food sent this email out under a save the date communication. Apparently an agenda and full itinerary will follow in due course.

I can only assume it will be a fairly brief ‘conference’ as wag food tell me:

Food Festivals need to manage their own commercial decisions with regards to management, operations of their events. Each event should also maintain feedback, as part of their Quality- Systems and to maintain or better their producer / visitor experience in the future. The feedback forms do not come to Welsh Government. As you will appreciate each Food Festival is responsible to organise their own exhibiting area and food producers. This commercial situation has nothing to do with WG commissioned research and who exhibits is a matter for the said organiser.

Sure there are some Welsh food and drink producers who‘d like to be flies on the wall for that one!

 
 

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.

 

 
 

Further Update On Freedom Of Information 10621

06 Sep

Well what a pleasant surprise, today I’ve had an answer, no sorry I mean reply, to my request for a ‘review’ which was not due until 19th September. Although wag’s email response is headed as a review, wag food have dealt with my ‘review’ as a complaint. Complaint, well that must mean something to wag, but nevertheless an early reply is something, answers would have been even better, but this is wag food I’m trying to get answers from. So as I’ve been asked repeatedly what’s happening with this question, here is their reply in full:

Complaint in respect of ATISN 10621

Thank you for your letter of 19 August seeking a review of our response to your recent request for information regarding funding for food festivals.

Your complaint was:

I cannot accept that the Welsh Government do not hold any information on the questions not answered in this FOI.   

I have carried out a review of our response to you of 17 August. You asked 10 questions, and I see a response was given for points 1-4 and 7-9. On points 5, 6 and 10 our response to you was that we do not hold the information requested.

I understand your complaint to be with respect to our answers on points 5, 6 and 10, and I have restricted this review to consideration of those points.

Specifically, these points are:

  1. From which budgets or other sources of WG funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?

   What criteria do these festivals have to meet before they can apply for funding from other than the food festival budget?

  1.      As the budget for this year’s festivals is £160k, can you explain where the remainder of this budget will be allocated?

I have spoken with officials who collated the original answer to understand what searches were undertaken to locate the information requested. I then conducted additional searches for the information requested. I have consulted with colleagues in other departments in Welsh Government who have also conducted their own searches for information.

In conducting these additional searches I have also considered the timescale you are interested in. Your first question was for:

  1. Details of all food festivals that applied for funding in 2016 and received £5k?

Officials responding to your request have therefore interpreted all subsequent questions to relate to the time period of 2016 (that is all applications for funding from 1 January 2016 to the date of your request). There is some ambiguity as to whether this includes an application for funding for a food festival taking place in 2016 where the application was received prior to 2016, so for the avoidance of doubt, I have ensured that the search specifically includes these.

These searches have not turned up any new information. In particular, under points 5 and 6, Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff have not applied for or received any funding for food festivals from other sources of funding within Welsh Government in this time period. We hold no information as to whether any other body has provided them funding external to Welsh Government.

Although they have not applied for funding in 2016, I have established that in some cases a food festival might qualify for funding from our Major Events Unit, and if their event were to qualify for funding, the criteria they would need to meet are described here:

hhttp://gov.wales/topics/tourism/marketingl1/majourevents/guidance/?lang=en.

On question 10, you asked where the remainder of this year’s food festival budget had been allocated and we replied that we do not hold recorded information in response to this query. I confirm that we do not hold recorded information on these budget allocations, as the budget has not yet been allocated.

Wag food civil servants must be in training to be politicians, as they’ve certainly learnt the art of not answering questions! I have been talking to them since March about food festival funding and yes, surprise, surprise, it’s  this year I’m interested in. This year they’ve given festivals two dates to apply for funding but then been so slow publishing a full list of funded festivals , I’ve found it pathetic. It was  August before the full list was available. How organisers managed to do their financial planning without knowing if they had wag support was total nonsense, yet as the maximum they can apply for is £5k, wag food are giving the message that basically guys fund it yourself, unless you happen to be one of the big three. Despite Welsh Country magazine supporting Welsh food and drink for over 11 years and the backing we have from so many Welsh food and drink producers, not to mention my talking to, or at wag food about Welsh food festivals, I still didn’t get sent the press release about food festival funding. How weird is that? Communication is the key, but that clearly doesn’t apply to wag food.

All I wanted to know was:

Which festivals have been funded.

Which festivals applied and didn’t get funded.

What’s happened to the remainder of the £160k food festival budget.

What government funding has been given to Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy.

Wag food are spending our money, so why is it so difficult, or near impossible, to find out where that money is being spent. Somebody must be accountable for this spend but it’s infuriating they’re not willing to disclose.

If wag food think their handling of this is acceptable, then it’s further proof we are operating on different planets. I’m in the real world and they clearly are not…………………..

 
 

Update Food Festival Funding – FOI 10621

24 Aug

I posted about this Freedom Of Information Number 10621 on 19th August and was, let me say perturbed that wag food were unable to answer all my questions about food festival funding for this year.

To save you scrolling back, the questions that wag food couldn’t/wouldn’t answer are as follows:

  1. From which budgets or other sources of wag funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?
  2. What criteria do these festivals have to meet before they can apply for funding from other than the food festival budget?

 5 & 6. We do not hold any information regarding this point.

  1. As the budget for this year’s festivals is £160k, can you explain where the remainder of this budget will be allocated?

We do not hold any information regarding this point.

In their reply wag food told me that if I wasn’t satisfied with the response offered, I could go back to them and they would then do an official review. Well dear reader I have done just that and yesterday received acknowledgement from wag food under the subject banner of a complaint! Well as far as I’m concerned wag food can call it what they wish, but to make life easier they could simply answer my questions at the first time of my asking. I’ve no wish to have to go back to wag food for a review or as in their view my complaint, all I require is my questions answered under an FOI. But now, and hardly for the first time, I’ve to chase wag again for answers to an FOI. Wag are well aware that if I’m not satisfied with their review/complaint then I am allowed to go to the Information Commissioner’s Office and they will investigate on my behalf.

Welsh Country magazine has backed and supported Welsh food and drink for over a decade. We promise our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers that we’ll pass on any relevant press releases, not that we get many through and also any foodie news to them. If they have any issues we’ll do our best to help, bearing in mind we’ve often to go to wag food to get any help………….

But that’s the system in place that I’m obliged to follow. Yet wouldn’t it be easier, quicker and cheaper for both parties if wag food would simply answer questions asked of them? How can wag and wag food  constantly forget that this is tax payers’ money they are spending?

 
 

Not Directly A Food Issue But………..

22 Aug

I’m aware of food and drink business, as we have at Welsh Country magazine, used Jobs Growth Wales.

So I’m grateful, but very annoyed to be informed today that the Labour Government has secretly cut its own job creation scheme. Jobs Growth Wales used to offer a 100% subsidy for firms to employ people aged between 16 – 24, but ministers have quietly slashed that subsidy to 50%, but without informing Assembly Members or the public.

Obviously I’m not the only one puzzled that we somehow, despite our elected Welsh Assembly Members, it feels more like we are living in a dictatorship. Shadow Secretary for the Economy, Russell George, said:

“Frankly, it’s appalling that a decision of this size can be implemented without having the courtesy to inform the public, or elected members. This is a profound change to a flagship scheme, which will undoubtedly affect take-up, and which has only come to light because a business has tipped off the media. Clearly we need to see stronger checks and balances placed on the Welsh Government. It’s not uncommon for Welsh Labour to sneak big announcements out via written statements, but this takes intransigence to new levels. It also highlights the hypocrisy at the core of their spin machine.

One minute the economy is in grave danger because of Brexit, now we’re told a 50% cut to their flagship job creation scheme is necessary because firms are doing too well. It makes no sense and I will be writing to the minister to seek clarity over the future of the scheme, and the budgetary implications of this dramatic cut to support.”

I’m puzzled by the government’s comments as our experience in the Welsh food and drink industry is that companies are not all doing well – let alone too well. To read this makes me cross when a £10k pay INCREASE for Assembly Members also basically went under the radar in fact I’m not sure that many  of the public are aware that Members got such an increase on top of their already ‘reasonable’ salary.

The problems with many governments is their ability to send out mix messages, should they send out any messages at all. Our economy is supposedly in grave danger from Brexit so our government’s idea is not to discuss it in the Senedd, but to go ahead and cut their own job creation scheme by 50%. You really couldn’t make this up!

 
 

Still Waiting For The 2nd Lot Of Festival Funding

04 Aug

I’m finding life hard work trying to get information from the Welsh Food department. Please don’t ask me why, all I’m trying to do is my job, ask questions, get answers and not to be pushed around in circles which ultimately creates more work for everyone. It seems to me that wasting time is easier when you get paid at the end of each month, regardless of whether you’ve done a good job or a bad job.

At the moment I’m chasing to find out which festivals have been funding by wag food in the second batch. The closing date for this second tranche was 14th July and I was told these applications would be dealt within two weeks. Well dear Reader, that is a wag ‘two weeks’ because as on 3rd August there is nothing about the second lot on wag’s website. As far as I’m aware, wag food haven’t sent out a press releasebut I’m not sure. I was promised by wag that I was on their press mailing list, but for some reason, known only to them of course, I didn’t get the first food festival press release. So just in case that had happened again…….. I went on the wag’s website again, but there’s still nothing posted.

I’ve also asked the press office how Abergavenny food festival, Conwy food festival and Cardiff food festival are being funded this year. But I have been told again that ‘I’d agreed’ that I’d not ask them questions for welshfoodbites. Well that’s not  true.  I was told by the Welsh Government press office that they wouldn’t answer any questions for  a blog and that’s what welshfoodbites is. But that’s not my ‘agreeing’ to it when there wasn’t a choice offered to me. My other point is that any Welsh food & drink information that I think is relevant, I post on welshfoodbites, but also email it around our Best Of Welsh & Borders, (BOW) producers. I’m communicating with our producers, which can only be a good thing surely? However it seems that wag think our BOW producers are not important either.

I was told the Welsh Government is being transparent in it’s dealings, well what does that mean? Is it more wag words and no actions? Or is it just lip service to us, wag telling us what they think we want to hear? It just feels like it’s a further dig at Welsh Country and I can’t see why when we are trying to promote Welsh food and drink as we are promoting our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, as we promote any Welsh markets and Welsh food festivals that want to work with Welsh Country magazine. What is the problem with that? I simply don’t understand it.

But if I can’t talk to the press office I can use Freedom Of Information (FOI), so I can get questions answered, well that’s the theory anyway but I’ve met problems there too over the years. Then I can put those answers on welshfoodbites. So why can’t wag save time and money and simply answer my questions? That makse sense to me but sadly doesn’t  to wag.

Well as I can’t get that information on the three big ones from the press office of wag’s website, then my only other option is to send through a Freedom Of Information question which was done on 29th July. Today I still wait for an acknowledgment……………………………….

 
 

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 welshcountry.co.uk and welshfoodbites.co.uk. 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………………….?