Posts Tagged ‘welsh food’

Food Festival Funding

14 Jan

Into the new year and surprise, surprise, I’m once again chasing wag food, via the press office as that ‘s how I have to make my enquiries, to allow the press office to then chase wag food. I  asked when we’ll be told what is happening to food festival funding this year.

It’s never been a priority for wag food to let organisers know where they stand on funding. The genuine worry for organisers is will they be getting funding or not, and then what criteria are wag food going to apply. Regular readers will know that I don’t believe wag food are capable of ensuring their criteria are carried through before payments are made to festivals. Last year festivals were supposed to issue press releases, which rarely happened, enhanced by the fact that some festivals didn’t even have a website, whilst others just didn’t bother to keep it updated. Some festivals didn’t even have a list of food producers attending. In my view it was another wag food shambles. Our food festivals should surely have the priority of supporting our food producers, but if organisers are not sending out basic press releases, don’t have a website or can’t keep it updated then it imply isn’t working for them.

As in previous years, Ian and I attended about 20 festivals last year. So it’s reasonable to say that we do have a good idea of what was happening with festivals and we do know as media are not able to ensure that their criteria are enforced. Despite paying two companies, CLES and Wavehill, to under take an evaluation of last year’s food festivals at a cost of £27,800 plus vat, I fail to see how they can do a decent job, let alone a good one, when they are reliant on trawling through organisers paperwork and telephone interviews. For us on the outside looking at food festivals as a whole, that amount of money would have paid for at least another 3 festivals. However the crunch is that is correct, but it wouldn’t have ticked another crucial box for wag food. One Best Of Welsh & Borders producer did tell me that they were 8-10 people from Wavehill, at Hay on Wye festival, but, although I’ve asked wag food, I’ve had no response as to whether that’s correct or not. I also asked wag food why, when the tender did not state attending festivals was required, that Wavehill could afford to send so many people to one festival. Assuming of course Wavehill was paying their people to attend! Was the wag tender so overpriced that Wavehill decided they could afford to attend Hay? Well I’m sure you can guess that this question did not get a reply either and if you are asking why not, so am I!

I’m not sure if wag food just can’t grasp that organisers need to know if funding is available, or perhaps they just aren’t bothered about putting additional stress and pressure on organisers, which is seriously heightened for those running early in the year. But year after year our organisers are put in this position and it does make you wonder why people volunteer for this thankless task. I stick by my view that wag food don’t deserve these people ‘working’ for them when they are treated so badly.

Posted 12Sep13

Is There To Be Food Festival Funding Next Year?

A food producer called in on Monday, asking if we’ve been told whether Welsh food festivals were being funded next year. Well of course I hadn’t been told anything. If I’d heard officially, meaning from wag food, I would have first emailed it around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and then I’d have posted it on

So I contacted the wag press office as I’ve been instructed to do and asked them. Their reply is as follows:

Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Any such rumours are completely untrue as no decision has yet been taken on funding for food festivals in 2014/15.”

So in true journalistic fashion, reading between the lines, I understand their response to mean, wag food have not decided officially yet, but it could well be true.

If producers need more uncertainty in their lives they can usually rely on wag food to provide it.

Monitoring & Evaluation Of Food Festivals 2013-14

Posted 080813

As you are all more than well aware, I’m not at all happy with a further evaluation of food festivals. Something to do with the fact that we are still waiting for Miller Research’s offering on last year’s festivals. I’ve been chasing for this report, but apparently it will be available of wag’s website at the end of this month, although initially I was told June.

Obviously we are not privy as to when wag received Miller’s words of wisdom. However if this report was going to be of assistance to wag this year to decide their latest criteria, you’d have hoped wag would have been pondering over it early this year, wouldn’t you? If that didn’t happen, just what is the point of spending with Miller, so I understand £43k?

Anyway still concerned about this, I asked questions under the Freedom Of Information Act on 2nd July. Questions were as follows:

When was the 2013 – 2014 Monitoring and Evaluation of Food Festivals Supported by the Welsh Government put out for tender?

  1. Which companies submitted tender applications?
  2. When was the tender awarded?
  3. What is the completion date for this tender?
  4. What is the Welsh Government paying the two successful companies for completing this tender?
  5. When will the review be published and available to the press and public?
  6. The 2013-2014 Monitoring & Evaluation of Food Festivals Supported by the Welsh Government, was this put out to open tender or from framework?

Although I’ve not had an acknowledgement, today I received a hard copy response. Puzzling why and emailed FOI warrants a hard copy response dated simply August 2013, but there we are – wag rules. Anyway their words of wisdom are shown in full:

1. The tender was issued on 30th June 2013.

2. Two companies submitted tenders for the work, Miller Research and CLES (Centre for Local Economic Strategies).

3. The tender was awarded on the 19th June.

4. The successful company is expected to submit a final report by 7th March 2014.

5. CLES were the appointed company, Wavehill are approved contractors carrying out some of the work in partnership with CLES. The tender value was £27,800+vat.

6. It isn’t possible to give an accurate date, however we would anticipate that the report would be released Spring 2014 for publication.

7. The tender was issued to companies on the Welsh Government Research and Evaluation Framework Lot 4 – Programme /Project Evaluation.   

So this response still raises further concerns. I’m wondering how wag issued this tender on 30th June but then awarded this same tender on 19th June. How can this be? We all know that wag ‘works’ slowly, but to award a tender before it’s actually been issued is certainly beyond them isn’t it?

The other cause for concern is the cost of these tenders and the wastage in my view of public money. Last year for evaluating about the same number of festivals, Miller got £43k. I’ve not got their report so cannot comment on its contents, but at least they did attend the festivals, so in theory, should have had a good idea of what was going on. This year, CLES with Wavehill are doing this work for £27,800, but the price difference is because these two companies are apparently doing their evaluation by phone along with feedback forms, plus organisers input. Well I know of far too many festivals that are ignoring wag’s stated criteria, but if some organisers are good at ticking wag’s precious boxes, how is this evaluation going to be worth anything? To me it seems silly and we need a system that will work and give us better, more profitable food festivals next year.

Now before any of you ask me why I keep bothering to try and get wag food to see sense, it’s quite simple. For many of our Best of Welsh & Border producers, festival and markets are a vital selling–tool for them, but neither of these sectors is really working well. The wag food festival budget was cut again this year, so it is even more vital that this budget gives value-for money, yet it doesn’t.

If only wag food could learn some lessons……….              


Food Action – Consultation

16 Dec

For some unknown reason this framework tender slipped under our radar, so my thanks to one of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers who gave us the update about it. Figures for this framework are between £11m – £19m. I’ll leave you to give me your feedback………

Food Sector Development Framework

Published by: Welsh Government

Publication Date: 04/11/2013

Deadline Date: 16/12/2013

Deadline Time:14:00

Notice Type: Contract Notice


The Welsh Government Food Division are seeking to put in place a framework to provide a range of advice, guidance and project delivery across the following lots.
Lot 1 Trade Development Opportunities or Food & Drink Sector
Lot 2 Specialist Food & Drink Consultancy –Events
Lot 3 Specialist Food & Drink Consultancy – Services
Lot 4 Specialist Food & Drink Export Consultancy
Lot 5 Food & Drink related Research and Evaluation
Lot 6 Category Management – Retail, Wholesale & Public Procurement
Lot 7 Meet the Buyer Programme
Lot 8 Mentoring – Specialist Marketing & Business Skills Support
Lot 9 Programmes to support the Food & Drink Sector
The framework will be let for a period of 36 months with the option to extend for a further 12 months.
Please note that a bidder briefing day will be held in the Welsh Government Offices at Aberystwyth on 14 November.
To register for the event please send a message through the messaging section of the eTenderWales website through which this ITT is being run.
CPV: 73110000, 73210000, 73000000.

I cannot say that this is for the action plan that you are being consulted about, because it was known that this framework was coming up for renewal, but the timing is wonderfully coincidental!

I am far from understanding the total ways of government procurement, but this framework has been brought up over the past when I asked questions about why this work job was not available for tender etc.

It is supposedly a money saving exercise in that wag issued a tender such as this for various types of work, but at this stage nothing specific. So when for instance in the past wag required a consultation company, say to look at food festivals, it did not go out to open tender, but went to one of those already ‘approved’ by them – Miller Research who were on this framework list.

I understand the fact that wag wants to save money, but my past experiences are that this rarely seems to happen, and I can only see that this way the awarding of contracts makes them far less transparent. Certainly in the past it looked that wag’s favourite companies always got the work. For those regular readers of welshfoodbites I have already commented about this many times in the past……….

It does though appear that when wag decided what they are going to do after their ‘food and agriculture consultation’ launched at the Winter Fair, that all their favoured Welsh Quangos will be in place to do their bidding, ‘twas ever thus!

I hope that the consultation does bring change and I shall certainly be submitting comments and supporting those food producers based in Wales, especially those working with us on Best Of Welsh & Borders, many of which are the smaller artisan companies that make our range of Welsh food and drink the best there is. However I digress again. It worries me that change is not happening as quickly as it should be doing. There was a wonderful opportunity at the Winter Fair for wag to break down some of the longstanding barriers and mistrust that has been long-standing between them and the food producers. Despite there being a couple of meetings in the food hall where many suits and polished shoes were plentiful, but many without badges, I hasten to add. But there seemed a distinct lack of communication with the producers exhibiting. To me this should have been a priority, but not seemingly to wag. Proving again in my mind how out-of-touch they still are. This, added to the absence of some wag officials, in particular our new Head Of Welsh Food. There are too many to count that cannot actually believe that he chose to miss the Winter Fair. In my view that was a political and a promotional disaster and one that wag couldn’t afford. It was an error so basic as to be unbelievable, even in wag’s book.

The financial figures shown above figures cannot be more accurate as the framework will last for 3 years and not all projects are yet finalised. Supposedly many will not be formulated until the consultation has finished and your views taken into account, again a hope and by no means a certainty. Then obviously projects can be altered over the next 3 years.  This time of year is when we try and look forward with some renewed enthusiasm. As we come slowly out of recession, we should be looking at growth not survival, but this cannot and will not happen without all  parties co-operating. That must include food producers, of all sizes, plus manufacturers and retailers. It should also involve the likes of me on the sidelines, but as I continue to bang my head against the wag wall, it might not. I need to see and believe in a massive change in wag’s attitude and my optimism for this, which was there in the summer, is there no longer…………………………………….


31 Jobs To Go At Proper Welsh Milk Dairy In Whitland

10 Dec

Thanks to one of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers who made me aware of more bad news in the Welsh food industry. Wag food in case you are interested, this is what is known as communication. The following is taken from the Carmarthenshire Journal and has been forwarded to one of our Assembly Members in case he is not aware:

Dairy Crest has announced that it is starting consultation over the proposed closure of its Proper Welsh Milk dairy in Whitland, which currently employs 31 people.

Proper Welsh Milk was days from closure when Dairy Crest bought the business from the administrators in March this year, with the aim to maintain production and employment and develop new products at the site.

However, the firm says production volumes have fallen short of expectations and significant investment is needed to bring the site up to Dairy Crest standards.

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart said he was desperately sad by the proposals.

Mark Allen, chief excutive of Dairy Crest, said: “We are disappointed it has not been possible to make a success of Proper Welsh, but lower sales and higher costs mean it is not possible to operate the site economically. We will do all we can to help employees at the dairy who may be affected by these proposals. We will also work with customers to offer them alternative packing arrangements and ensure there is no disruption to their service. We remain committed to the Welsh dairy sector and are continuing to recruit farmers and invest in milk collection facilities around Carmarthen.”

Mr Hart added: “I am desperately sad that Dairy Crest were unable to make this venture work. The employees have worked incredibly hard and deserve a better outcome than this. I will do anything I can to help them find alternative work in the area and urge them to get in touch.”

It is a major blow for Whitland. The £1.5 million dairy was only officially opened by First Minister Carwyn Jones in November 2011. At the time it was hoped the dairy would process and bottle up to 10 million litres of locally-sourced milk each year.

Speaking at the launch, the First Minister said: “It’s a great pleasure to be here today at the first creamery to open in Wales in 75 years. There’s been a tendency for milk processing to leave Wales so this dairy is very welcome. It’s great to see this facility in Whitland; I well remember the lively conversations that took place with Dairy Crest’s closure. It’s a great vote of confidence in local farming.”

He added: “This new plant is a great step forward for both Carmarthenshire and the Welsh dairy industry. The dairy will safeguard milk outlets for dairy farmers in the surrounding area. This is Welsh milk being produced and bottled here in Wales for Welsh consumers and that has to be good news for all.”

Whitland, once well known for its role in the dairy industry, lost many jobs in the mid-1990s with the closure of the Dairy Crest creamery.


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?


Autumn Pembrokeshire Food & Drink Evening

27 Nov

Last night, Tuesday 26th November was apparently the correct night for the above, despite the invite saying Wednesday November 26th. Of course regular visitors to welshfoodbites will be aware that Ian and I were not allowed press tickets to attend and were told that this meeting was purely for Pembrokeshire producers, the public and press were not invited.

The evening agenda was as follows:

Food Rating Scheme – what does it mean for food and drink producers. This presentation and Q&A was taken by Peter Cole senior EHO officer.

This was followed by ‘New food and drink strategy for Wales 2014-20’ taken by Keith Smyton, Head of Food Division WG – your chance to have your say.

This was followed by Total Food Marketing mentoring support opportunities and AOB.

Well the feedback I’ve had today is that the main concern of producers, the ‘New food and drink strategy for Wales 2014-20’ was a total nothingness, ‘your chance to have your say’ was not at all accurate. Mr Smyton appears to have had his hands tied and nothing can be said from wag food until Alun Davies the Minister for Natural Resources gives his speech on Monday at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair. It is interesting though that comments from some producers said that Mr Smyton indicated that he wanted this consultation some time ago. But can’t confirm this ‘gossip’ for sure as I say I was banned.

Now you’ll all be delighted to hear that Ian and I have not been banned from this meeting – surprise, surprise! In fact the wag food team have been most helpful even down to answering my question as to whether an official press release will be issued. You’ll be pleased to know that an official press release will be issued and all our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers will get it emailed to them as soon as possible.

From our understanding and chat from producers, which might or might not be true, the Food Team in Aberystwyth has been transformed with very few of the old guard left in place. I can already here some of you cheering, but until I know for sure, who’s in, who’s out, and who’s doing what role, I’ll wait and see.

We can only hope that this all bodes well to a more open and more commercially thinking food department that is going to listen to all sides and become constructive open and fair to all, whatever the size of the company. I hope that Mr Smyton’s hands are not permanently tied which will prevent him doing his job and as already said, I’m still hopeful he can help all Welsh food producers and food media too.

In the meantime I can only hope and sit on the fence – which is not my style.

So I’m grateful I didn’t miss much, instead Ian and I were invited, yes guys, another invite, to Cardiff by the Countryside Alliance for their Game-To-Eat night. There we had Welsh chef Dudley Newbury and his team cook some superb canapés all using game. A brilliant evening plus we met many people from the hotel and restaurant trade along with some of our Assembly Members. A great opportunity for Ian and I to speak with many that have influence. It was a positive evening all round that really did show that we have wonderful restaurants in Wales that want to promote local food and some Assembly Members that are also think along the same lines.

If more in this industry stand up and be counted, maybe that is the only way we can change things for the better.


Have Cardiff Lost Out On British Cheese Awards?

27 Nov

Last year the British Cheese Awards took place in Churchill in the Cotswolds and we were told by Cardiff Council that this year they were holding a Country Fair and were going to hold the cheese festival every other year. See relevant story posted on welshfoodbites on 15th May.

So I was rather puzzled to be sent this news from one of our Best Of Welsh producers who’d picked it up from Bath & West. So has Cardiff and therefore Wales and our Welsh cheese and food producers missed out altogether now?

As far as I’m aware this news from Bath & West is correct, but the news is also on thecheeseweb which is the recognised website for the awards. News is as follows:

The prestigious British Cheese Awards will celebrate their coming of age by making their new home at the Royal Bath and West Show in 2014. The National Cheese Awards have been held at the Royal Bath and West Show for a number of years, so joining forces with the British Cheese Awards will broaden the schedule and range of entries, new classes will be added and others merged, though Cheddar will continue to play a significant role.

The 21st Awards will be held the day before the Show with the judging in the morning and the announcement of the winners at the Awards Dinner that evening. Visitors will get the opportunity to taste, smell and experience the extraordinary diversity and complexity of British cheese.

In 2013 the British Cheese Awards attracted 908 entries from 183 British and Irish cheese makers representing an amazing 71 % of all British cheese makers. In addition, to ensure the best rise to the top, judges at the British Cheese Awards do not award first second or third in each class but as many or as few medals as they wish.

Ian has tried today to get news from Cardiff Council about the British Cheese Festival next year and has been told: “Cardiff Council is still in the throes of its budget setting process for 2013/14, so we will need to wait until that is complete before we can confirm next year’s event programme. Hopefully we will know early in the new year.”

As soon as I have further news, I’ll update you.


Action Plan For Welsh Food Consultation

25 Nov


The Minister For Natural Resources, Alun Davies will be launching the consultation document, Delivering Growth at the Winter Fair on Monday 2nd December.

Wag food’s plan includes three central themes and seven priorities. The themes are:

1. To form a Food & Drinks federation to offer leadership to the food sector;

2. To develop a new Food & Drink Wales identity for food to support trade and market development;

3. A focus in training and up-skilling throughout the food chain.

The seven priorities included:

1. Food market growth.

2. Food culture.

3. Food safety.

4. Climate change.

5. Improved integration and efficiency in the supply chain.

6. Health.

7. Social wellbeing.

The consultation is available on line at

We’ve spent much of today trying to get this link to work and failed miserably. So suggest ring or email if you wish your views to be heard.

You can also request copies from the Welsh Government’s Food Division by calling 0300 062 2436 or email:

That’s the official story of where things are to date.

I’ve asked wag food press office if they are issuing an official press release after Mr Davies’ announcement, and the good news is they are. So this will be sent out to all our Best Of Welsh & Border producers as soon as possible.  I do worry how other Welsh food producers will find out about this latest food consultation but it’s not my job to contact them all is it?

Of course there’s nothing to stop you passing your views through in the two ways wag food suggest. Whether your/our views will make any difference, only time will tell. But if you don’t even bother then we’ll have to accept what wag food’s proposed strategy is once again. I know you all felt badly done to last time when many of spent our spare time going to wag meetings but we were not listened too. Well it could happen again  – there’s not certainly that it wont, but please at the very least send them and email with your concerns and worries. It’s no use moaning at Ian and I and our team to get things change – we are virtually powerless to get wag food to listen to us. We always pass on your concerns but they are not often actioned.

The strategy is formed from recommendations of the Food & Farming Panel.


Evening Show Gets On The Road For Local Welsh Food Producers

05 Nov

Local food producers have been putting on local evening markets aimed at people who wouldn’t normally attend day markets. Last month these  were arranged in Pontarddulais and Gowerton. These markets have been so successful that more have been planned in the countdown to Christmas, during November and December.

The innovative idea is being supported by Rural Swansea Action (RSA) and Eironwy Davies, Project Coordinator for RSA, said: “The first series of markets in Pontarddulais and Gowerton in October were a real success. We had a lot of positive feedback with many customers saying they hoped that the markets would continue. The markets were very well attended and people were impressed by the fact that the food was both local and of a really good quality.”

The next series are due to take place at Canolfan y Bont, Pontarddulais, on November 7 and December 5 between 5pm and 8pm and at St John’s Church Hall in Gowerton on November 13 and December 11, also between 5pm and 8pm.

I’m a fan of farmers markets, but often struggle with the early starts and know that this doesn’t always suit our holiday makers. Many markets struggle to do their own marketing or any promotion and this does stop some people attending and instead take the easy option to do a supermarket shop. Often councils can’t be bothered to back their markets, with bans on banners and signs and restrictive parking for both traders and the public. Ian and I try to get to markets when we can, but working out the ‘every other Saturday’, if you’re not local always confuses me!

Being the kind souls that we are here at Welsh Country magazine, we  used to run a regular page giving a Farmers’ Market calendar in each issue. We couldn’t get funding or payment for this, but we ran it anyway. It was well received by organisers, locals and visitors, but of course we had to stop it when Fork2Fork were awarded £800k to raise awareness for markets, farm shops and box schemes. In my opinion, this awareness campaign didn’t work for the producers or market organisers and this is borne out by the feedback I’m getting from across Wales, with many markets really under pressure. I’m not sure if wag food take any interest in markets, but it’s an area that they should be focusing on and supporting whilst we still have some markets running.

Congratulations to the producers that took the initiative to get this clever idea off the ground. I love to see more groups following this great example.

Great to have a cheery story for welshfoodbites for a change!


First Milk & Adams Foods Announce Strategic Partnership

01 Nov

Our interest is Welsh food, all sectors but I’m grateful to one of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers who sent through to me a press release about the dairy industry. So follows is the press release which might be of interest to those of you involved in the dairy sector:

The Boards of Adams Foods, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of cheese, and First Milk, the largest British farmer-owned dairy co-operative, have announced that they have entered into a long term strategic partnership.

The partnership will establish a fully integrated supply chain for hard cheese in the UK retail, foodservice and wholesale sectors through harnessing the complementary resources, skills and experience of both companies. 

As part of the partnership, Adams Foods will utilise its best-in-class facility at Leek in Staffordshire to cut, pack and market 50,000 tonnes of hard cheese, including branded cheddars, produced at First Milk’s award winning Lake District and Haverfordwest creameries. Adams Foods will take on the business for the sales and marketing of this cheese to British retail, foodservice and wholesale customers. First Milk will continue to manage the sales and marketing of its cheddars to export markets. 

First Milk will receive a competitive price for the cheese, with the partnership also facilitating significant additional investment at First Milk’s creameries to ensure that they are amongst the best in the UK dairy industry.


The long term partnership will deliver strong benefits to both companies, their customers and the wider dairy industry:

The partnership will create a comprehensive integrated supply chain for the UK hard cheese market.  It will be able to guarantee existing and prospective retail, foodservice and wholesale customers a secure, efficient and traceable supply of high quality British and Irish hard cheese. 

  • It will secure a sustainable, long-term outlet for the majority of First Milk’s hard cheese.  In doing so, it will allow First Milk to put more commercial focus on brand development outside cheddar.  Other priority areas will include lifestyle nutrition, foodservice (excluding hard cheese) and exports.
  • It will reinforce Adams Foods’ position as a leading supplier of both British and Irish cheese in the UK, and build upon its existing supply relationships with British cheese makers such as Parkham Farms and South Caernarfon Creameries. 
  •  It will provide a strong platform for the further development of Adams Foods’ retail, foodservice and wholesale customer label, convenience format and branded cheddar offering.  It will complement Adams Foods’ best in class capabilities in relation to product and packaging innovation, marketing and category management.
  •  At a wider industry level, the partnership will play a key role in helping to sustain and develop the British cheese market. It will provide greater stability to the wider British dairy industry following a period of considerable volatility both at a processor and farmer level.





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Channel Fisheries Has Netted A Buyer, But Have Its Fisherman Been Paid?

01 Nov

I posted on 17th October that Channel Fisheries had netted a buyer just hours after plunging into administration. Devon-based Channel Fisheries’ core business, plus its Fish At 85 restaurant and wholesale sideline in Cardiff, have both found buyers. Simon Girling and Graham Randall of accountancy firm BDO were appointed joint administrators of Channel Fisheries Ltd on 3 October 2013. Later that day, they oversaw the sale of the company’s business and assets at Brixham in Devon, Paignton in Devon and London to Seafood Holdings, which is a subsidiary of food service giant Bidvest Fresh. Then they completed the sale of its restaurant and wholesale operation, centred on the Fish At 85 restaurant in Cardiff, to Mandaco 777.

Well that sounds all very well and good. Especially over the weekend when I spoke to someone who told me that everything with Channel Fisheries was now back on an even keel. Cynical journalist that I am, it sounded too good to be true and so it appears to be. I heard yesterday from a very good source that that the keel was far from even. He then took the trouble to ring one of the fisherman involved with Channel Fisheries, and the ‘polite’ version, that’ you’d prefer to hear I’m sure, was that he had still not been paid. It seems sensible to assume that if he’s not been paid then other fisherman are likely to be in the same boat, sorry another bad pun. It’s unclear if the new buyers have taken on the old debts, but so far that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’m not sure what these guys can do to get their money, if anything. It’s tough enough working for yourself without having the hassle of companies that don’t pay you for the job you have done.  Of course my concern is how many fishermen haven’t been paid? What’s the likelihood that they’ll ever receive that outstanding debt? I know more about the workings of Welsh food than I do about Welsh fish but no-one can say this is idea for those poor fishermen.

In October 2012, Channel Fisheries received investment from the £40m Wales SME Investment Fund which is managed by Finance Wales. The company received a £750,000 equity and debt investment. Sixty members of staff were employed.



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