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 http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/environmentandcountryside/action-plan-for-the-food-and-drinks-indistry-2014-2020/?lang=en 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?