As always, the RWAS Food Hall never fails to cause anger and upset amongst Welsh food producers. I’ve actually lost count of the number of producers that stopped me at Sunday’s Smallholder event, have emailed me or telephoned in to complain.
My reading of the situation is that a number of producers who have traded on a regular basis in the Food Hall at the RWAS, have now been told they can no longer attend. The initial excuse, or explanation that we have been given is the regular excuse that Food Hall was oversubscribed and all applications cannot be accepted. Apparently all applicants were sent along with their application form, the scoring criteria, and it was the scoring criteria that was used so that decisions could be made. Follows is the Welsh Government’s official:
A Welsh Government spokesperson said,
“The Food Hall at the Royal Welsh Show is jointly run by the Welsh Government and the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society with the application process for stand space being managed through event management company, Fernleigh.
Due to space limitations it was impossible to accommodate all applicants for stand space and a scoring criteria was used which included an emphasis on the use of Welsh produce. All applicants were made aware of this and a copy of the criteria was included in their application packs.
While we appreciate some applicants may be disappointed we remain committed to promoting the wealth of food producers we have in Wales and the quality of their produce.
Now dear readers, much as I want to, I’m not prepared to mention companies who this year have been unceremoniously ousted from the RWAS, but to say that some of these are well known Welsh companies, sums it up perfectly. Ian and I have now asked Fernleigh Design and wag food for a copy of the ‘criteria’ which seems to be the crunch item, but still waiting to receive it from either party.
So without that information I’d like to seriously take wag food and Fernleigh Design to task on their ‘emphasis on the use of Welsh products’. I’d like to know how many companies producing bakery goods can give assurance that they are using Welsh flour and Welsh butter? How many companies producing bara brith and Welsh cakes have found a supplier that grows raisins and sultanas in Wales? I thought wag food might have learnt a lesson from a company – now no longer in existence that persuaded wag that he grew tea in Pembrokeshire. So convincing was this company that wag gave him a True Taste Award and featured him on the front cover of that magazine!!! In part see where wag are trying to come from, but as usual they get it wrong because of their inability to see the bigger picture.
Ideally I’d like to give you examples of companies that have been unfairly thrown out, because that would allow you to understand more clearly how wrong this selection process appears to be, but as I haven’t asked for their permission to do so and bearing in mind it might well stop them getting a last minute stand, I shall reluctantly stay quiet!!! But as some of these are our Best Of Welsh producers, I am furious with both wag food and Fernleigh, and cannot believe that their isn’t a better way to sort this out.
Now you’d think was enough to go on with wouldn’t you? But I’ve sadly not finished having just been told by a third party that producers have been told to pay up by 31st May, if not they lose their stand. Nothing has been arranged for smaller companies to be able to make stage payments through to July, it’s pay now, in full, or else!!!!!
Without a doubt the Food Hall will have plenty of large companies who will not be stretched in the slightest having to write wag food one large cheque, but for smaller companies it is going to cause them enormous problems. In case wag are not aware or have just forgotten, Wales is still in the midst of a recession, people are cutting back on food purchases, the season so far has been a wash-out and last weekend’s Smallholder Show could hardly be described as even a vague success, sited in the old Food Hall. But isn’t it typical of wag that their focus seemingly remains on the big boys and no thought at all to the smaller guys. If wag food had any vague hope that some of these smaller companies might in the futrue grow, then my suggestion would be to stop trying to strangle the life out of them!
I did hear rumours from a source close to the wag food department that the RWAS Food Hall was going to change this year, but as yet that’s as far as I’ve got, no more news there. Wag food have not told me their plans for altering the Food Hall. Yes of course some food producers need to become more professional. I’ve said that so many times on welshfoodbites. I’ve complained bitterly about producers not having signage on their stand, no banners, no business cards, no leaflets etc. but I wonder why this is not one of wag’s criteria, because it really should be.
The longer this goes on, the more concerned I am that wag food have lost the plot as far as Welsh food is concerned. OK I can already hear you saying they never knew what the plot was in the first place. But things have to improve whilst we still have some producers left. I’ve no idea at all where wag are getting their advice from, if they are getting any advice at all. But I sincerely hope wag are not paying for said advice, because you are being ripped off if that’s the case.
If, or when I get any updates, I’ll pass them onto you. All I can do is offer my sympathy for those of you that have been ousted without a reasonable explanation, but if what I’m hearing happens I think some traders will change their mind about accepting the stand they have been offered. So maybe some stands will still come along at the 11th hour. I’m really sorry we are again in this situation as an industry. Selfishly I don’t care if producers that aren’t with us on our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers listing, haven’t got in, but do feel so sorry for those of our BOW that have been thrown out.