Just for your information, these questions were sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers yesterday so they have the report before it goes up on welshfoodbites.
On 13th November we noted that farmers’ markets were a subject of questions, and knowing this will be of interest – or annoyance here is the relevant section for you to read:
9. What measures can the Welsh Government take to further improve the support available for farmers’ markets? OAQ (4)0079(NRF)
The Welsh Government is committed to supporting and promoting Welsh food and drink through a number of measures, including food tourism and festivals. Julie Morgan
I thank the Minister for his response. Does the Minister have any analysis or market research of the customers who use farmers’ markets, such as the ones in Rhiwbina, Whitchurch, Riverside and Roath—which are the farmers’ markets in Cardiff? Does he believe that there are any price barriers for some customers in accessing locally sourced organic food?
I think that there are issues in some parts of Wales about accessing local fresh food. This may be the case for organic food as well, but it is certainly the case for local fresh food. The Government’s renewed action plan for food will be launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair. There will be a section of that that addresses the issues that the Member has raised in terms of farmers’ markets, as well as the connection between the consumer and the producers and processors of foods. That is a connection that is essential for us to make as a country, a society and a community. I would invite all Members, on all sides of the Chamber, to look at what the Government is proposing to do to strengthen those links and to join us in an active dialogue about how we can strengthen the food chains that currently exist in Wales and ensure that people—whatever their income bracket and wherever they live in Wales—have access to great, fresh food produced in Wales.
Minister, in August of this year, it was reported that Chepstow town council was providing incentives for traders, in the hope of reviving the town’s farmers’ market. These incentives included no charge being made for trading licence fees, pitch fees and electricity. What further incentives is the Welsh Government considering to promote and extend farmers’ markets in Wales?
In terms of the promotion of farmers’ markets, the movement is not something that has been the creature of Government—it is not something that is top down. I would like to see Government and local authorities promoting and supporting the ability of local producers and others to develop the farmers’ market movement and the wider local marketing and purchase of food across the whole of Wales. I would welcome local authorities taking such steps and, certainly, if any barriers exist at Welsh Government level, I would be very happy to look at how we can remove those barriers.
Minister, you have touched on some of what I was going to cover in my question. We talk about fuel poverty in this Chamber, but there is good-quality food poverty as well. You have rightly mentioned that the food in farmers’ markets is organic, it is fresher, it has travelled less and the profits stay in Wales. There are many people on benefits, Minister, who cannot afford to buy it, because it is too expensive. You subsidise food festivals in Wales; why do you not subsidise farmers’ markets?
There are legal issues with some of those matters, but let us try to overcome issues where they exist and look at what we want to achieve. When you see the strategy that I am proposing for the development of the food programme from the Welsh Government, in all its different elements, you will see an action plan that addresses issues of production, of primary production, of processing, of promotion, of manufacture and of the links with the consumer—social as well as health and education. I hope that, in developing a holistic approach to food policy, what we will be doing is helping to create the links that you describe, with which I very much agree, and doing so in a way that strengthens the production of food and the access to consumption of food, which is of high quality, across the whole of Wales.
Well, where do I start? After reading this I feel like Alice in Wonderland or Alice stuck down a rabbit hole. Little of this makes any sense to me and as I reckon I’m involved in the Welsh food industry I’m worried and annoyed in equal measure. Now let me say that I didn’t think our Welsh farmers markets were organic. If that’s the case then that message has been lost on me – organic? I thought we were talking about local food for local people. As fork2fork ‘AWARENESS’ which has cost us to date bang on £900k, why haven’t our Assembly Members, at the very least, got this ‘awareness’ message? So I’ll award another black mark to fork2fork because if they haven’t been able to get the message to our Assembly Members, who are so easy to target at the Senedd, then what realistic hope is there that fork2fork have managed to get their awareness message to even a proportion of the Welsh public? Well I think you have the answer to that one in the questions that have been asked, haven’t you?
Much is made by some Assembly Members about farmers’ market being expensive, so if that’s their take on it, it is yet another black mark to fork2fork because shouldn’t part of their ‘awareness’ campaign being to get the message out that you can shop well and with good local quality at your farmers’ market? Should they have said that the money then stays in the county and in Wales – unlike supermarket shopping, money from which rarely stops in the UK let alone in Wales?
I’m intrigued to hear that: However, state aid regulations prohibit support to be given directly to individual farmers’ markets. We are anxious to support the direct link between producers and consumers.
I’m not aware exactly what the Minister means by ‘state aid regulations’, so I asked for the definitive answer from the Press Office.
I thought the Minister was meaning that markets are classed as making a profit, so they don’t qualify for funding, but if that’s the case how does funding for festivals which make a profit, then work? So sorry I’m confused, but will clarify when I can, because as it stands it makes no sense to me.
Much song and dance has been made by our Minister about our current Food Plan being dumped and that another was then being introduced. We have been told, as the Senedd has also been told, that the Minister is keen to get the views of producers of all sizes from across Wales and will arrange discussion groups – as happened with the last Food Plan. The sad thing is, again in my opinion is that wag food went through these same motions, they ticked their important box and went ahead – seemingly ignoring the voices of many producers who said at the time that a 10 Year plan would not work. Well done guys we’ve been proved right now as the latest Minster has now thrown that plan out now. And now the Minister says:
The Government’s renewed action plan for food will be launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair.
Well Minster it seems déjà vu is my response to you. Needless to say, although I’m on RWAS press list I’ve heard nothing from them about the Minister’s forthcoming announcement and neither have I heard anything from the Press Office or from wag food either.
In terms of the promotion of farmers’ markets, the movement is not something that has been the creature of Government—it is not something that is top down.
I’m also furious on this comment too. Just because the government hasn’t created farmers’ markets, it doesn’t give the Minister, or his government, an opt-out clause. Their job is promoting our local food – end of story. Don’t you dare come up with ‘the government hasn’t created markets’ as it seems your washing your hands on them as they’re not a government creation. In another question to the Minister about Welsh Red Meat, he was pleased to announce that the government is helping HCC with trips to push Welsh lamb to the USA, Canada, China and Russia. So I’m horrified that the Minister doesn’t seem to bear any responsibility that through his government and through Europe, FBA/Fork2fork have taken £900k to promote markets, box schemes and farm shops, yet few in these sectors are doing even reasonably well.
I’ll be interested in your views on this although one comment has already come in overnight and posted elsewhere about these questions.