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Posts Tagged ‘welshfoodbites.co.uk’

Food Festival Funding

06 Feb

Food Festival Funding, as happens each year, I’m getting asked what’s happening about Welsh Government food festival funding. Sadly, as always, I haven’t a clue. I’ve heard many rumours, but can assure you when wag food tell me – which hopefully they will – our Best Of Welsh & Border producers will be the first to know. Plus then it will be posted on welshfoodbites.co.uk.

One producer suggested I ask the Welsh Government’s press office, which certainly made me chuckle as seemingly he’s been reading welshfoodbites otherwise he’s know that for the second time the wag press office have refused to answer any questions from me, as Welsh Country magazine. Apparently we posted on welshcountry.co.uk a press release from Open Spaces Group, but wag press office, as so many people do, visited our welshcountry website and spotted the Open Spaces post. We were then in trouble because we as Welsh Country hadn’t gone back to the press office to give them a right of reply! Apparently the press office expects a right of reply on issues/articles that relate to the Welsh Government, which they say they get from all other Welsh media. So the Welsh Government press office now class welshcountry.co.uk as ‘merely a depository for unchallenged press releases’ and believe we should make that clear on our site. I’m perfectly happy with welshcountry.co.uk, I’m thrilled with visitor numbers we get on our site and the positve feedback we get from it too! If we had the time and the staff to read through in detail every press release we post and thenh if wag was mentioned I might consider doing just that, but it seems they are ok with my chasing them up three times for a question I wanted answered. The press office appear unconcerned that we do not post any Welsh Government press releases on welshcountry.co.uk  or in Welsh Country magazine, not sure why that is……..

I find this attitude petty and pointless and achieves nothing apart from the press office trying to stamp their influence on Welsh Country magazine. This is the second occasion the wag press office have refused to answer my questions, I find it simply annoying and frustrating. So no questions answered through the press office but thank goodness the Freedom Of Information Act, (FOI), is still an option open to me,  albeit it takes 20 days to achieve that. Perhaps if wag press office were funding their own office and staff and were not being paid for by the tax payer, they’d realised how expensive and time consuming the FOI is. Yes I realise I’m being harsh and unfair as it’s unrealistic for me to expect civil servants to understand the difference between civil servants and those running businesses.

Anyway the latest news on food festival funding for 2017 is there isn’t any. Food festivals that are advertising this year will of course get our support in Welsh Country magazine, on our website and of course on social media too but if/when a list of Welsh Government funded food festivals is ‘sent’ through to me it will as always be sent around our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and then posted on welshfoodbites.co.uk.

Sorry I can’t give you the information you are asking me for but that’s the situation we are in.

 
 

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.

 

 
 

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………………….?

 
 

At Last Wag Has a Full Board

30 Jun

I received this press release this afternoon from wag and have published it in full:

Food & Drink Action Update
A year since Towards Sustainable Growth was launched, the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans today provided an update on progress to deliver the priorities of our action plan for the food and drink industry in Wales.

The update included significant work to redefine the Bwyd a Diod Cymru Identity, which will encompass the diversity of the food industry and champion and celebrate the Welsh language. We have also launched the new Food and Drink Wales website, to improve two way communications with industry, as well as the Food Tourism Action Plan for Wales which will result in much closer working between Food Division, Visit Wales and external partners to create opportunities for food producers and tourism businesses alike.

The Minister said, “The plan has been, and continues to be, about action. It is predicated on partnership between government and industry. We are a pro-business government, working closely with companies to create growth and jobs in every part of Wales and we established an overarching and challenging target of 30% growth in sales by 2020 and we are on course to achieve this target.”

The latest priority sector statistics for farming and food reported £5.8bn turnover which means that we have already achieved 11.5% growth since 2012-13.

To support business growth, Rebecca Evans today announced the development of a Micro-Business Cluster programme to ensure that we dedicate support for the smallest businesses to ensure a sustainable pipeline of new businesses, and the development of a new Impact Business Cluster programme, that aims to target businesses who are looking to grow at a rate of 50% a year. These programmes will have business leaders at their heart, and who will help shape and lead their development.

This follows a recent announcement of investment over £2.5m during the next two years to ensure Wales continues to have a strong presence at a series of key UK and international trade events. This support will continue to enable our companies to enhance their profile, build market share and maximise their sales in both existing and new markets.

In 2014/15, as a result of their participation in the UK and International events programme, Welsh companies secured nearly £6m additional business, with further opportunities identified of over £16m.

The Minister also used the opportunity to announce the new members of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board, another key commitment.

“I am pleased to announce today that following the receipt of many applications and a rigorous assessment process we have full membership to the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board. They are the voice of the industry, the voice for businesses of all sizes and the voice for the supply chain. It is vital that a shared responsibility is developed between Government and industry and this is where I see the Board playing a major part.”

She thanked the interim Chair, Robin Jones, from Village Bakery, who is now stepping down from the role saying he provided “a dynamic voice” which will help deliver “a new era of opportunity, growth and success.”

The members of the Food and Drink Industry Board Wales are:
• Norma Barry, InsideOut Organisational Solutions,
• Annitta Engel, D.B.G.E Limited,
• Catherine Fookes, Organic Trade Board,
• Justine Sarah Fosh, Improve,
• Buster Grant, Brecon Brewing,
• Alison Lea-Wilson, Halen Môn,
• David Lloyd, ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre,
• Katie Palmer, Sustainable Food Cardiff,
• Llior Radford, Llaeth y Llan,
• Andy Richardson, Volac,
• Justin Scale, Capstone Organic,
• Marcus Sherreard, Dawn Meats,
• Huw Thomas, Puffin Produce and
• James Wilson, Welsh Fishermen’s Association

Our Deputy Minister says this food and drink plan is all about action, but I disagree when it has taken since the second round of applications closed on 24th April, for us to be told who the government has appointed to its latest food board. But perhaps that qualifies as civil service action. Over two months to give the green light to five more people – none of whom are running their own businesses and people I think we’d describe as ‘suits’. I have to wonder if tax payers will feel it’s been worth the time and money spent on this action plan. This press release has already been sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and I’ve already been asked which of the people on this board are not paid by wag or have not been funded over the years by wag. But sure most of you can work that answer out yourself. I apologise to our BOW producers if you get this press release twice today, assuming wag food might have bothered to do that. Never mind wag food, I’m happy to help you do your job for you. Remember, Kath says communication is the key.

We are told that it’s vital that a shared responsibility is developed between Government and industry and this is where our Deputy Minister sees the Board playing a major part. What she hasn’t bothered to explain is how this will happen. We are all aware that the government and in particular the food department, cannot or will not communicate to food and drink producers, so I’m at a lost how this board will achieve ‘a shared responsibility’. Let me know what you think.

We are also told that Wales continueo to have a strong presence at a series of key UK and international trade events. Well that’s great news for those companies that get invited to these events and have proved to wag that they have potential to grow. But what about the micro and small business who often have festivals and farmers’ markets as their starting points? Well we’ve no idea what the food festival budget is this year due to wag splitting the funding list into two and I’ve yet to be given the second tranche of funding, which will not be until the end of July. But let’s assume the funding has been chopped again. Let’s also assume that wag will not explain why, after bleating on for years that festivals must be self-funding, that they have now given the green light for some festivals to apply for £25k instead of £10k. Where’s the logic there wag? How’s that self-funding? Or for the big three, Conwy, Cardiff and Abergavenny does your ruling not apply? Now to farmers’ markets, which wag are not responsible for, as that’s down to county councils, but it was ok for wag food to approve a project of £800k, initially – it ended up lots more – to look at farm shops, box schemes and markets. There must be some logic there too, but maybe I’m missing it!

Delighted to read that Deputy Minister has announced the development of a Micro-Business Cluster programme to ensure that wag dedicates support for the smallest businesses to ensure a sustainable pipeline of new businesses, and the development of a new Impact Business Cluster programme, that aims to target businesses who are looking to grow at a rate of 50% a year. These programmes will have business leaders at their heart, and who will help shape and lead their development. Now isn’t that good news? Note that this is for companies who are ‘looking to grow at a rate of 50%’ I guess that applies to quite a few companies, but in this poor economic climate how will wag judge if genuine growth is there? Bear with me as I’ve got it now, wag will have business leaders at their heart, and who will help shape and lead their development. What a pity there are no business leaders named.

My fear, as it seems to be with this government and the food department, is that wag have offered sound bites, but there’s precious little meat on this bone that will achieve a great deal and with Welsh food and drink so important to Wales we do need much more. .

Please do let me know your views and add your comments on welshfoodbites.co.uk.

 
 

Festival Funding – Or A Game Of Smoke & Mirrors?

21 May

I’ve been asked so often about food festival funding, so the easiest way to update you is to show you my Freedom Of Information question Number 9403 and the response.

ATISN 9403 Food Culture Grant Scheme – Food Festivals and Events 2015
Thank you for your request which I received on 22.04.15. You asked for:
1. I require a full list of all festivals that applied for Welsh Government funding for 2015 in both first and second tranches.
2. How much funding each festival has applied for and how much they received.
3. The festivals that applied for funding and were not successful. Also the amount they requested.
4. Date when second tranche will be awarded.
5. For second tranche of funding I require answers to questions 1, 2, and 3 above.

Please note that the Food Festival and Events grant process for 2015/16 is still currently ongoing. With that in mind, I set out the response to each of your questions below.
1 and 2
As the application process has not yet closed, the Welsh Government does not hold a full list of all festivals that applied for Welsh Government funding for 2015 (in both first and second tranches) or the amount they have applied for/received. At best we only hold partial information relating to the applications received to date and how much they applied for. I can confirm, however, that it is the Welsh Government’s intention to ultimately publish the outcome of the Food Culture Grant Scheme – Food Festivals and Events 2015 -2016 on the following page:
http://gov.wales/topics/environmentcountryside/foodanddrink/supportforfoodproducers/supportforfoodfestivals/food-culture-grant-funding-for-food-festivals-2015-16/?lang=en
Because of this, the partial information we hold is exempt under section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI Act) – Information intended for future publication. Section 22 states:
(1)Information is exempt information if:
(a) the information is held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date (whether determined or not).
(b) the information was already held with a view to such publication at the time when the request for information was made, and.
(c) it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure until the date referred to in paragraph (a).
As set out above, (a) and (b) have been satisfied and as far as (c) goes I believe it’s wholly reasonable to withhold the information until its formal publication so as to allow the established timeline of the process to run its course.
Section 22 is also subject to the public interest test; that is, in order to withhold the information it has to be shown that the public interest in withholding the information outweighs that in releasing it. The Welsh Government acknowledges the general public interest in openness and transparency that the release would engender. On the other hand, however, the information is incomplete and inappropriate for publication at this stage as it could be misleading. Your own interest in the information notwithstanding, I do not believe there is sufficient public interest in this information to warrant release of the information prior to the official publication.
3 – as the process is still ongoing, decisions regarding the success or otherwise of the applicants has not yet been made. Consequently, this information is not held by Welsh Government.
4 – All awards under the second tranche of funding will be made by 31 July 2015.
5 – In relation to this question please see the response to questions 1, 2 and 3 above.

So the outcome is please don’t ask me about festival funding because you now know as much, or as little, as me. But there really is no need for you to worry, because the link wag have kindly sent through is a great idea, well it would be if us outsiders have the slightest clue of WHEN to look for it! Guess that’s another wag secret.

Under the old regime – later than I or you would like, wag food would send to me the full list of festivals they were funding. I then had to go back to them to ask which festivals had been turned down and how much each festival had asked for, but that was just another email for me to do. Now wag foods’ latest system only makes life more complicated and really does feel like a government game of smoke and mirrors. Money matters should be in the public’s interest because it is our money wag is spending. Seemingly Welsh food and drink producers are classed as public and they of course have no interest in food festival funding at all………………………

Welsh food and drink are supposed to be important to Wales, which means that Welsh food and drink producers are important to. Which then means our Welsh  food festivals are also important too. But not being able to get even part of the information I;ve asked me for, is to say the least annoying. Did Welsh food and drink producers agree that it was a good idea to run two tranches of food festival funding this year? Well I think not, because wag food can’t be bothered engaging with their producers, by and large. I really don’t know how many times I have to tell wag food that this is one of their many problems is a puzzle. Were Welsh food festival organisers asked it they wanted two tranches? Perhaps they were now wag have agreed to have a food festival committee, but is that committee talking to all food festivals that are chasing funding? I’m not sure they are. Obviously the big three festivals have got a voice to wag food, hence they are all getting more cash this year, but not sure it applies across the board and that is my worry. I’m sure the big three festivals will survive anyway, but what of our smaller festivals? If they don’t where does our growth come from?

The first tranche of food festival funding has been sent out by wag and has been published here on welshfoodbites.co.uk so why I can’t have questions answered about that first tranche makes no sense to me an their explanation doesn’t help at all, but that’s so typical of wag.

Wag, why help if you can hinder?

 
 

Food and Drink Wales Industry Board

03 Mar

There’s concern from quite a few of you, emailing and calling into our office and asking what is happening with the proposed Food and Drink Wales Industry Board. Well dear readers, if there was any constructive news about this board, I can assure I would have posted here on welshfoodbites and told our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers by email.

So unfortunately there’s no news at all, only a great deal of gossip. I last posted on this topic on 19th Dec and I’ve copied that post below so you can refresh your memories. The gist of the story to date is that people were asked to put themselves forward for this board, then have an interview, with the first meeting scheduled for the 8th December.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that not only was the 8th December meeting cancelled at the 11th hour, but no further meeting has since been arranged or held. As far as I’m aware, the Board, has still not been formed as we move into March.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you could never run a business like this  and at the risk of repeating myself once again,  communication, for me at least, is still the key. This industry will not exist without our Welsh food and drink producers still wag food insist that keeping them all in the dark is the best policy………………………………..

Of course my suggestions fall on stony ground and let’s face it wag food’s ground must be very stony – so we have no option but to wait and wait and wait. In fairness though, we must bear in mind that it must be a difficult job to put together a board to represent the food and drink industry! I was though told that over 40 people interviewed for this board. As one producer said last week, surely of those 40 people, there were a sufficient number whose faces ‘fitted’ with wag food, but seemingly not!!!

Whenever this board is elected – and when and if I’m told – I’ll let you know, but please don’t hold your breath!

 

 

19Dec

I’m still being asked what’s happening with the proposed Food & Drink Wales Industry Board. So here’s the story:

The interviews took place as the government promised, with the first meeting of the board scheduled for the 8th December. We understand that those interviewed are still waiting to be told if they’ve been successful, as the Welsh Government cancelled their first scheduled meeting.

Apparently The Minister is still considering the proposal for Board membership; there is still some optimism, not quite sure where apart from government circles, that the Board will be announced early in the New Year with the first meeting held during January.

Well how do you sum this up? From my side I find it rather pathetic. You have hard-working business people who have take the time and trouble to apply for a board post, have gone along for an interview, then scheduled the 8th December in their busy diary – just in case they were successful, but now have to wait for a yes or a no sometime in the New Year.

However that is not all that concerns me. I’m also apprehensive as to how fair a representation of the Welsh food and drinks industry this board will actually be. Micros have expressed their lack of interest in this board because they simply haven’t time to put themselves forward. Although we have no idea who went forward for an interview, I’m sure there are few, if any micro producers; they simply haven’t the time to leave their businesses. This means that the micro sector, once more will be ignored, which wag food is so good at doing. My fear is that the board will comprise of Quangos and big businesses that are all more than capable of fighting their own corner. If any food funding is available, they’ll be the guys one the front row with their begging bowls held out.

When more news comes through I’ll post an update, but meanwhile I can only hope that my fears are unfounded, but…………………

 

 
 

Supply Chain Efficiency Scheme

06 Feb

Supply Chain Efficiency Scheme has been a regular post over the last few years, through the interest and puzzlement from our Best Of Welsh & Border producers. I have posted about two schemes in particular, Fork2Fork and Pembrokeshire Produce Direct. I’d like to say I’d investigated both these, but not sure that is an accurate description as I’ve been blocked all the way on trying to find out what benefit, if any, has been generated by these two projects.

Well today another comment arrived by post from a helpful person called Anon. I can understand some people wishing to mail me a comment and other useful information. But although I promise everyone that comments left on welshfoodbites.co.uk, will not reveal who you are – hence the number of comments from: BOW, producer, trader and foodie, the only info you must supply is an email address. I can assure you that email is only seen by me. If you then think that your email will be sent elsewhere, you do not know me very well! I refused to reveal my sources to our Rural Food Minister – back in the day when we had a Welsh Food Minister – and NO-ONE will get such information out of me, even if that marks me once more as a trouble-maker.   

But back to my SCES post which promoted the sender to communicate with me after reading it. The sender was expressing concern at the PPD project, wondering why I’d not mentioned Pembrokeshire County Council’s, (PCC), involvement. Well in my many posts about this topic, I most certainly have because PCC loaned PPD money to get this project off the ground before the SCES funding came through. PCC’s food officer, was I think also on the board at one stage. But when I put up a new post I cannot cover the whole story from the beginning as it would just take too long and then I’m at risk at boring my regular readers. However if SCES were paying me a yearly fee of £43k to keep my website updated, as they did with fork2fork, then I’m sure could afford the time to do that!!!

When PPD was set up, I as a journalist was sent very little information and precious little detail. Actually if I think back, I don’t actually think I was sent any information at all, but as I can’t be sure, I’ll try to be fair. I was told by the SCES team that it was up to each project to do promotion or not, they didn’t have too! My updates/complaints came from producers, as we had some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers in the Pembrokeshire area.  

I’m aware that PPD scheme won some awards, but let’s be honest, can anyone remember what they were? Being the cynical journalist, unless I rate who is judging, I find many awards meaningless, but lest we forget, that does of course tick another box on the wag/SCES sheets. I’m told a review is underway, but we’ll not get sight of this until the end of this year. We’ve not been given a final date for publication, but then I wouldn’t have, because this after all is wag in control. The final crunch is I guess, we’ll not believe much of it. Yet some company will have been paid a fortune to collate this report, and that is important so wag can tick yet another box. Then will anyone be able to find this report? Maybe not – as I suspect it will be buried somewhere on wag’s website. I’ve asked wag if they’ll send me a copy when published, but not holding my breath on that one!

The crunch for me is why were these two projects given the go-ahead initially? Was the reason they got their cash because they could ‘talk-a-good game?’ Both these projects got start-off funding of £800k each with Fork2Fork getting much, much more as time has gone on. (The total cost of the PPD project was £789,660 and received £469,596 from SCES and the remainder from other sources. My sender thinks that PPD got the green light because of the strong link between PCC and PPD but that doesn’t apply for Fork2Fork scheme, the strong link there is the person who headed the Fork2Fork scheme, had strong connections with wag food.    

I don’t lay any blame at all with the food producers, my gossip is PCC wanted their own producer scheme and of course they got it. But a lot of egg has been left on a lot of faces, but we need to know who has got an eggy face! PCC got what they wanted at huge cost to the Welsh tax-payer and now it bites the dust and there’ no explanation as far as I know from PCC. I’m told as PPD was heading downwards, they backed away, but sadly that is only hearsay. I’m not convinced that PCC will explain any clearer than Wag will and just feel this can of worms will remain unopened. 

I’d be a total idiot if I couldn’t work out that I’m being blocked and fobbed off trying to understand what was the thinking behind these two projects. What was achieved and if the taxpayer has actually seen any value in the money that has been spent on their behalf. Or perhaps an easier way is to ask our Welsh food and drink producers what value they’ve seen from these two projects. ……………………………….

The other important thing to remember is these are only two of the schemes from a whole string of projects that received funding under the SCES. So how much money has proved worthwhile and how much has simply been wasted? We’ll just never be told the truth from what purports to be an open government.        

 

 
 

Update On Food Festival Funding

23 Apr

I got some news in this morning, needless to say not from wag food, which was that some Welsh food festival organisers have had an email giving an amount wag food are offering them for their festival. As far as I’m aware there’s been no information that anyone has received an official funding offer by letter from wag food. Some organisers say it’s a letter they require before they are assured it’s fully official – which seems to be an on going lack of trust between them.

A ‘polite’ way for me to describe this situation is farcical, but there are many other adjectives that are more appropriate to describe how the Welsh Country team are feeling about wag food festivals!

Welsh Country magazine have many sectors that are concerned about wag’ festival funding – organisers, obviously, food producers, of course and also our readers both for Welsh Country magazine and on welshcountry.co.uk. Our M/June issue is on the printing press tomorrow and I’ve been unable to cover many festivals because I don’t know for certain much of what is going ahead. But fret not wag food, you carry on doing what I guess you think is a good job on food festivals and just ignore the rest of us being left in the dark, not knowing what on earth is happening. We lost another festival advert this week because the organisers hadn’t received an official letter confirmation from wag food. But again wag food, that’s not for you to worry about, your salaries will still plop in the bank at the end of the month. Plus, once you have finally handed out your funding offer, it’s not your responsibility to get producers into festivals or to get visitors through the gates. If your current form continues you’ll take little interest in food festivals until European box-ticking has to be completed. This is surely a case of wag food saying ‘I’m alright Jack’

We used to publish a full list of wag funded food festivals in our M/June issue and then follow that up in our J/A, S/Oct and N/Dec with festivals running then. This acted as a reminder to our food producers and also to our readers. A full wag funded food festival listing also ran on welshcountry.co.uk. Anyway that was back in 2008 and 2009 when wag were advertising with us in each issue and so we were happy to support wag food in any way we could. We always promise to give additional support to our advertisers and this 2-way street, does work.

Since 2010 we’ve been fobbed off, or in my view bullied, with the ‘no budget scenario’ and yes, it appears our additional work in 2008-9 was irrelevant. I guess no-one in wag food evaluated what extra work we did for them, which is par for the wag. If you need to guess when welshfoodbites was born – try 2010!

Ian was told officially yesterday that there will be no advertising from wag food for 2014 – quelle surprise, but I think it’s important that you know where things stand here this year between us and wag food. Wag food are responsible for food festivals and part of their criteria is that festivals must market and advertise, but wag are throwing this totally back to organisers, even though wag food are penalising festivals running early. It’s also important that food producers ask each festival about what marketing/advertising programmes are in place before their cheques are sent off. That must be your safe-guard and it’s no good moaning to me when a festival is not working with us.

Losing wag food’s support from 2010 has caused some confusion and queries from our readers. They’re are unaware of the huge problems that still exist with wag food and have been expecting me to cover all festivals as we did in the past, but that’s not viable for Welsh Country and also not fair on festivals that are working with us, so that’s where we now are.

We’re running a business, so it goes without saying that in an ideal Welsh world I’d want all wag funded food festivals to advertise and support us. But the reality is that that’s unlikely to happen. It’s up to organisers to make their decisions, the choices are theirs. Ian’s often told of funded festivals saying they’ve no advertising budget, which could be a fob-off or rather that they’d rather run in their local rag and local radio. Of course we accept their decisions, it’s pointless wasting more time doing anything else, but those festivals have to accept that if they’re not advertising, we’ll not give them any coverage either in Welsh Country magazine or on welshcountry.co.uk. We’re also unlikely to visit them either, but maybe some festivals will find that a blessing as that means they haven’t a hope of getting on welshfoodbites either!!!

But don’t get too down about all this, just remember how often we are told how important Welsh food and drink is to Wales ……………………………………….

P.S.

Spoken to more festivals today and can confirm that others have also had wag’s email offer, but NONE have yet been sent an official letter.

 
 

Update Food Policy Evaluation

31 Mar

People are still asking my view on the above, so perhaps it’s worthwhile if I do my own brief evaluation. We were summoned in 2010 to give our opinions on the Government’s proposed 10 year food plan. We told them there and then that a 10 year plan would not work and we suggested a five year plan, but we were either ignored or over ruled, the result was the same. The government went their own sweet way, planning food for ten years. There’s little satisfaction in us being proved right, with no idea how much money has been thrown at this 10 year plan or has been wasted but more importantly many of us were furious about being ignored.

Ignoring food producers when they give their time freely, has in my view damaged the industry, certainly at micro level. But now along with True Taste, wag food have dumped their 10 year plan and off we go again with another 4 meetings held across Wales. The difference this time is these meetings were all scheduled and held during the day, which is perfect for Quangos and we all know Wales has more than it’s fair share of those! But what no-one in wag food appears to have given a single thought to, is how many producers can afford to take at least half a day off and drive to their nearest meetings? I’ve no idea why this never occurred to them, to me it’s obvious, but then I haven’t got the luxury of a salary dropping into my bank each month regardless! Micro producers for some reason don’t seem important to wag and I think many micro food businesses have the chance of growing giving the right support. Seemingly this does not appear to be on wag food’s agenda. Fifty micro producers could easily be helped to employ one person per company – that’s 50 people in employment and learning a trade that Wales needs.

However to try and prove my theory, I’ve asked for lists of attendees to each of the 4 public meetings. My request was refused on the grounds of Data Protection. We understand about 30 people on average attended each meeting, which is pretty poor in my book. Then Ian was told that only 77 responses in total were received. We understand that wag food have 900+ producers listed, so I find this appalling.

How did wag food contact everyone involved in food so they were aware of this feedback? Or did they just not bother apart from posting on their website? Apparently at one of the meetings a further seminar was requested which was held last Tuesday at the Royal Showground in Builth Wells. All 77 that sent in feedback were invited, which included Ian and I, but then I was told by the press office that I could attend, but would have to leave after the Minister’s speech, charming! Ian and I then spent ages emailing and phoning to eventually be told on Monday that we could attend, but had to ensure everyone knew we were press, how annoying and pathetic. I would have thought the press office would know by now that Welsh Country is bi-monthly and I was not going to be reporting on something that has not been decided. Plus our editorial policy is to support our advertisers and wag food are not yet back working with us, so there will be no coverage in the magazine, in anyway. Welsh food of course continues to be important to us and we do like to know what is going on, journalists are nosey creatures by nature, hence we thought we’d take valuable time out from our day jobs and attend.

Well to sign in and be given badges for Welsh Country Foods, not Welsh Country magazine, was not a good start, but just as well that as usual we’d already got our own badges on. As expected, the shiny suits and shoes abound as Welsh Quangos were out in force again. Ian and I stayed only for the morning session as we were off to Countryside Alliance Awards, but we only knew of one other food producer in attendance. I could well be wrong on that, but certainly not by much, as Quangos dominated for sure. To be paid to attend and collect your mileage is certainly an incentive, but that’s an incentive most food producers haven’t got and that’s a fact that wag food, sadly seem to have ignored. But the bottom line is that without our Welsh food producers, our many and varied Quangos would not exist.

Of course there was a question of anonymity or lack of from the notes from wag which I posted about in December and that cannot have helped this situation. Wag food will never tell me who has responded, but I suspect that every Welsh Quango related to food will have, without a doubt, responded. Which means the picture wag food has been given to me is blurred and not accurate of our food industry.

I’m extremely disappointed that I’ll not get a breakdown of the 77 respondents, but also disappointed that much of our industry couldn’t be bothered. If I was wag food I’d want to know why, but to save them puzzling, as many of them read welshfoodbites.co.uk, they’ll know that they’ve not re-established any trust, especially with micro producers. We circulated wag food’s draft action plan around our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and posted it on welshfoodbites.co.uk, although it’s certainly not our job to do so, but I’m sure wag food are grateful for our support!!! I emphasised that it was irrelevant how fed-up food producers were with wag food, feeling they were always ignored by them, but that this proposal, when finalised, will define Welsh food for the next six years. Despite my pleas, many of you still refused to participate and send your thoughts and views through to wag, although I think some did saying they’d no trust in wag food, so they were not prepared to waste mot of their time. Some said the feedback form was too complicated and that you didn’t feel it applied that much to you and your business. I can accept that, but only up to a point. You could just have easily put an email together and given them your opinion, telling them what’s right, what’s wrong, what you want changing and why. That is surely not too tough to get your voice heard.

Anyway the consultation is closed, you’ve missed the boat and I’m still unhappy with only 77 responses. But if you are not one of those 77 who did respond, please don’t dare give me a hard time moaning about festivals and markets, distribution, problems accessing grants, staffing, lack of communication from wag food etc. etc. this was your opportunity to raise these points with the civil servants that are paid to work for you, the people that can make your life easier or harder…………………………………………………………!!