|Andrew RT Davies AC|
|Dai Lloyd AC|
|Jenny Rathbone AC|
|John Griffiths AC|
|Joyce Watson AC|
|Llyr Gruffydd AC|
|Mike Hedges AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Andrew Campbell||Cadeirydd, Cynghrair Twristiaeth Cymru|
|Chairman, Wales Tourism Alliance|
|David Chapman||Cyfarwyddwr Gweithredol Cymru, UKHospitality Cymru|
|Executive Director Wales, UKHospitality Cymru|
|Matthew O’Callaghan||Cadeirydd, UK Protected Food Names Association|
|Chairman, UK Protected Food Names Association|
|Robert Bowen||Darlithydd Entrepreneuriaeth Ryngwladol, Arweinydd Darpariaeth Gymraeg Ysgol Rheolaeth, Prifysgol Abertawe|
|Lecturer in International Entrepreneurship, School Lead on the Welsh Language Provision, School of Management, Swansea University|
|Simon Wright||Cyfarwyddwr, Wright’s Independent Food Ltd|
|Director, Wright’s Independent Food Ltd|
|Wynfford James||Cyfarwyddwr, Sgema Cyf|
|Director, Sgema Cyf|
|Yr Athro Terry Marsden||Athro Polisi a Chynllunio Amgylcheddol, Cyfarwyddwr Sefydliad Ymchwil Mannau Cynaliadwy, Prifysgol Caerdydd|
|Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning, Director of Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University|
|Elizabeth Wilkinson||Ail Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Ailfeddwl am fwyd yng Nghymru: brandio a phrosesu bwyd - sesiwn dystiolaeth gydag arbenigwyr brandio||2. Rethinking food in Wales: food branding and food processing - evidence session with branding experts|
|3. Ailfeddwl am fwyd yng Nghymru: brandio a phrosesu bwyd - sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda chynrychiolwyr o’r sector lletygarwch||3. Rethinking food in Wales: food branding and food processing - evidence session with representatives of the hospitality sector|
|4. Ailfeddwl am fwyd yng Nghymru: brandio a phrosesu bwyd - sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda'r Athro Terry Marsden, Prifysgol Caerdydd||4. Rethinking food in Wales: food branding and food processing - evidence session with Professor Terry Marsden, Cardiff University|
|5. Papurau i’w nodi||5. Papers to note|
|6. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o gyfarfod heddiw ar gyfer eitem 7||6. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from item 7 of today's meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:18.
The meeting began at 09:18.
Bore da. Good morning. Do any Members want to declare any interests? We've had apologies from Gareth Bennett, we know John Griffiths is here, and we're expecting Andrew R.T. Davies.
First of all, can I welcome the panel here this morning? Could you introduce yourselves for the record, please?
I'm Robert Bowen, from Swansea University.
Wynfford James, Sgema, and former head of agri-food at the Welsh Development Agency, and food division of Welsh Government.
Matthew O'Callaghan, from Melton Mowbray. I chair the UK Protected Food Names Association.
I don't usually get that response. [Laughter.]
Can I welcome all three of you to the meeting? If you're okay, can we go straight to questions? Yes. If I can start: have you been involved in developing the new Welsh food and drink strategy, and if so, what are your views on the direction of travel in terms of branding and promotion of Welsh products?
I've had some discussions with Welsh Government about the strategy. There was a consultation process, which I think is ongoing at the moment, and I've been part of that. I met with representatives from Welsh Government in Aberystwyth in September to discuss food and drink. In terms of the direction of the strategy, it's building on the previous strategy. I think there's been a lot of success in the previous strategy, so I think it's good to build on that. However, with the current climate, it's difficult to see what would be a suitable strategy going forward, given certain uncertainties that exist at the moment. So, it's maybe difficult to try and see what would be appropriate in terms of the strategy going forward.
Well, I haven't been involved at all in the development of the present strategy, but, obviously, I was heavily involved in the development of the 'Food for Wales, Food from Wales' strategy. My concern, if I can express my concern about the present position with regard to a food strategy for Wales, is that there's a lack of clarity—is it a review of the action plan or is it developing a new food strategy? And I think it is appropriate to mention that the previous strategy was not implemented fully. And that, in fact, was confirmed by the Public Policy Institute for Wales study that was carried out by Terry Marsden and Kevin Morgan, which I think has been submitted to this committee. And I think that the committee should be concerned about the fact that that strategy was not implemented, and if we are to consider the key vision in that strategy, I think it still has particular relevance to where a future strategy should be, because I think that a strategy must have a strategic vision that counts for Wales's distinctiveness, in terms of production, consumption, governance and cultural issues, and considers the pressures that impact on the food for the next decade. And that is particularly relevant now in terms of climate change, health—all those issues. And a framework to help policy makers, businesses and stakeholders confront these issues, encourage the food industry to take advantage and opportunities, and threats, particularly in the context of Brexit—. And particularly important, in my view, is the co-ordination of policy direction of Government and industry to meet those needs. So, I'm sorry to say, it is not good enough for the chair of the food and drink board to talk about the businesses only in the context of a new food strategy, and also not to recognise that (1) there is no food brand at this stage for the promotion of food and drink in Wales.
So, I think that those are some of the key issues, in my view, that the committee needs to look at in terms of strategy and in terms of promotion, and I think the committee should be concerned that the Government didn't implement the past strategy, and, if I may say so, that the Welsh Government did not scrutinise their inability to deliver on that strategy.
No, I've not been involved; I'm not so sure I'd expect to be necessarily involved. I do work with colleagues in the Welsh Government on protected food names, but it just seems that it's a very unique opportunity now to start afresh. You've had a successful strategy so far, and I have to say, the work that the Welsh Government has done on protected food names is exemplary. I wish the rest of the UK was doing the same as yourselves in terms of the resources you commit to it and the success you've had—I think it's something like eight out of the last 12 protected food names have come from Wales, and it's doing a lot in terms of promoting Welsh food products. So, it's certainly an opportunity now to look at the other strategy anew, and I've noticed you're looking at the Scottish good food nation strategy as well. Their previous strategy, again, I have to say, was an excellent document, and one also in which they broke the subject into different themes like health, food sustainability, food security, branding—those sort of things—and then they had different working parties headed by experts in those areas, and through the chairs, then, reporting to a board. I have to say, that strategy was really, really efficient, it was well delivered, and I'd certainly recommend that model.
I just wanted to come back to Mr Bowen, because I'm struggling to understand how the current policy is an improvement on the previous policy, because there seems to be an absence of some of the things that Mr O'Callaghan has just mentioned, like public health, food security. We're the most obese nation in Europe, and with the diabetes to go with it, so how do you think that this is an improvement?
My work, specifically, looks more in the direction of internationalisation and looking—. From the way in which Welsh food businesses have grown in terms of international opportunities, I think that's been a success, although I do recognise that there are many other areas where many improvements could be made on that as well. I apologise for looking at it maybe with a bit of a narrow vision.
There has been success on that side, I think.
Thank you. I think that's why we have a panel—to bring different viewpoints. So, thank you. Joyce Watson.
Good morning all, and you gave us excellent papers, all of you, and thank you for that. I want to explore the views on the proposals for the new UK geographical indicators scheme after Brexit. That's what I'm particularly looking at. What do you think might be the impact for us, and what would be the impact if we had a UK-US trade deal that omitted GI status, and whether you could talk through what happens with the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement trade deal? I know that's three questions, but I'm sure each of you can answer parts of it.
It took us a while to get the UK Government to where it is now. About three years ago, the UK Protected Food Names Association, a voluntary association—I chair it; I'm a volunteer—we had a meeting with George Eustice, then the Minister for food, about three years ago, and his view was, 'Why do we need one? Why not just use certification, trademarks?' And it took us some time to persuade the UK Government that they needed a UK protected scheme. And so we've now got to the stage where they have accepted that they need one, and 'Don't worry, folks; it'll be in place before Brexit'—not seen the legislation yet, not seen anything yet of it. Some consultation on it, and for the first time ever—and that was only because the European Union insisted—they now have introduced a scheme for enforcement of the European scheme, which we're just about to leave. I have to say there's sort of wishful thinking on the part of the UK Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in terms of, 'Don't worry folks; even if there's no deal, our products are still going to be protected in Europe.' But, of course, we don't have a requirement to protect their products within the UK, and, of course, on 30 March, they won't be protected in the UK. Now, what sort of fools are we to think that they will protect ours and they will not—when we won't protect theirs? Obviously, they'll change the rules, and I'm afraid all our products will be out. Of course, there are Welsh products there that are significant, in terms of Welsh beef and lamb, for example, but even small ones like the Anglesey sea salt, for example. That has actually been remarkable—Alison, in terms of exploiting the protected food name status to market her product there. It's a key to open that door; it's a brand recognition. So, she's done extremely well from it. My fears are that (a) will we get a scheme from the UK in time—I don't think we will. And, to that extent, I chair the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, very vulnerable to copying and generics; Cornish pasties, things like that. And, from day one, I suspect that everybody's going to be making those and there will be no legal protection.
I have a number of concerns about the UK scheme, for example, the UK logo. What's the logo? They've been consulting on a logo. If it's going to have the union flag on it—yes, not so sure. I've lived in Belgium; I was professor of animal sciences in Costa Rica; I've worked in Brazil; I was at the business school in Tokyo. British food has not got a massive reputation, I'm afraid, and certainly things like mad cow disease have not helped. That's why my belief is that Welsh branding, obviously, I think, is probably better. And to that extent, the logo, I think, is going to be very important in that. Brexit is an opportunity, I think, for Welsh products, in terms of, 'Okay, it's going to be more expensive getting European products in.' If I were the Welsh, I'd say, 'Okay, let's see what we can replace that comes from Europe,' in terms of Wales supplying to the rest of England and the rest of it. So, I am concerned.
The other thing I am concerned about is that there's no register of protected food names. There's a register of the name, but not who's producing it. So, part of what I have to face is people writing to me, saying, 'So and so is producing a protected food name—are they legally entitled to?' Now, how do I know? Interestingly, when DEFRA wants to consult, they come to me for all the e-mail addresses or whatever, because they haven't got a list themselves. So, if we are going to have a scheme, let's know who's producing it—it's a licence, it's a permission, and therefore someone ought to be told. Like, for example, if you're giving a trademark or a licence for any other product, you have a licensee. My view is that we ought to have that as well.
Just on the practical element, how would that work with Welsh lamb, because there are so many—
With Welsh lamb, then—in terms of Welsh lamb, you'd then have a—. Well, there is a two-phase process. There are a number of—. For example, the Gloucestershire cheese people, I don't know if they've fallen out, but they haven't had a—they don't really have an association; neither do Arbroath Smokies, people like that. So, to that extent, you've got individual producers. But, for Melton Mowbray pork pies, for example, for Cornish pasties, you have associations, and I think that what ought to happen is that you have recognised trade bodies that act in lieu of the Government and then, through them, they then do the accreditation that way.
I don't think I have anything really to add, because I think Matthew's paper to the committee is an excellent paper that summarises well, and, indeed, his evidence this morning. I think the only thing I would add is the need to understand that when a product has recognition, when there is a PFN, then the restrictions—there are fewer restrictions on the way that public sector funds can be used to promote that product; it relates back to the whole question about branding, state aids et cetera. But I think that the paper was an excellent paper.
Yes, certainly, protected food names have been very important for Wales. I think, as has been said before, Wales has been a leading part of the UK in terms of developing protected food names. And that's been very important I think in the internationalisation of Welsh food products as well, because the European accreditation for protected food names is recognised, particularly in key markets such as France and Italy. So, I think that's been very important.
So, there are question marks over maybe what a British protected food name system would be like and would that have the same recognition. It would take time maybe to develop brand recognition of that as well, and, obviously, as Mr O'Callaghan has pointed out, there have been issues around having a union flag possibly on the branding and how that might affect Welsh products.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Ar y pwynt union yna a beth ddywedoch chi yn gynharach, wrth gwrs, mi welson ni yn Sioe Frenhinol Cymru haf diwethaf neuadd fwyd yn llawn bwydydd Cymreig gyda logo baner yr undeb drosto fe i gyd. Ac wrth gwrs roedd hynna yn arwydd arwyddocaol i rai ohonom ni efallai—ein sioe fwyaf blaengar ni yma yng Nghymru yn dangos yr holl fwydydd yma o Gymru a baner yr undeb oedd yna, a'r faner Gymraeg yn unlle i'w weld—dim draig goch o gwbl yn unlle.
Nawr, wrth gwrs, dŷch chi wedi pwysleisio, yn y lle cyntaf, pwysigrwydd Cymru, ond hefyd, wrth gwrs, y ffaith bod—. Mae lot o bobl yn credu bod baner jac yr undeb—'Wrth gwrs, mae hynna yn mynd i agor drysau ar draws y byd i gyd, achos bod pawb yn ei adnabod o', ond dŷch chi'n credu efallai nid dyna—. Achos buaswn i'n tueddu, yn naturiol, i bwysleisio pwysigrwydd y ddraig goch yn y brandio, ac, wrth gwrs, hyd yn oed yn Melton Mowbray, buasech chi'n gweld y gwahaniaeth.
Thank you, Chair. On exactly that point and what you said earlier, of course, we saw in the Royal Welsh Show last summer the foodhall full of Welsh foods with the union jack logo on it. And, of course, that was significant for some of us—the most important show for us in Wales exhibiting Welsh foods and they had the union jack on them, and the Welsh flag was nowhere to be seen—not a red dragon anywhere.
Now, of course, you have emphasised, in the first place, the importance of Wales, but also the fact that—. Many people believe that the union jack—'Of course, that is going to open doors across the world, because everybody recognises it'. Do you think perhaps that's not the case? I would tend, naturally, to emphasise the importance of the red dragon in the branding and, of course, even in Melton Mowbray, you'd see the difference.
I couldn't agree more actually, I have to say. As I say, I've lived abroad. I've lived in various places, I've travelled the world, and, of course, I love food, and so I always sniff out who's doing what. And Britain's an industrialised country and therefore you immediately think of industrialisation or whatever. You don't think of Britain, actually, in terms of food. In fact, in the old days, it was a joke, British food. So, why have a brand like Wales associated with something that the Government is—? I mean, they're doing a lot and it's starting to succeed, but why tie your horse to that instead of something you've got yourselves? To that extent, my view is that—. What is the advantage of Wales? Well, you're known for your countryside, you're known for your rurality and whatever, and so a slogan 'naturally Wales' or 'naturally Welsh' for me, with your red dragon, I think is stronger: naturally Welsh, your red dragon, food. Then you could use that for tourism and whatever else. I think that's a much stronger brand just than, I'm afraid, tagging it to someone else's efforts to try and improve their image. You've got your own image, why not use it?
Os caf fi ychwanegu jest sylw ynglŷn â'r neuadd fwyd, rwy'n eich atgoffa chi—roedd logo Cymru, y Gwir Flas, ar du allan y neuadd fwyd tan bod Llywodraeth Cymru yn gofyn i'r sioe amaethyddol i'w dynnu fe i lawr. Dwi ddim yn gwybod os ŷch chi am i mi ymhelaethu ar y cwestiwn o frand y Gwir Flas, ond efallai cawn ni wneud hynny wedyn.
If I could just add a comment about the foodhall, I remind you—. The Welsh logo, the True Taste, was outside the foodhall until the Welsh Government asked the Royal Welsh Show to pull it down. I don't know if you want me to expand on the True Taste brand, but maybe we can do that later.
Mae yna gwestiwn yn nes ymlaen, rwy'n credu.
There is a question, I think, later on.
Wel, hynny yw, gwnes i, yn y papur gwnes i gyflwyno ger eich bron chi, ddweud fod yna—bu'n gamgymeriad i ddileu'r brand, ac mae rhywun yn gofyn y cwestiwn, 'Pam dileu brand?' Datblygwyd y brand o 2004 ymlaen mewn ymgynghoriaeth gyda'r diwydiant, lle'r oedd yna alw clir am gael brand ar gyfer bwyd a diod yng Nghymru. Ac, wrth gyfeirio at y brand, mi fyddwn i'n hoffi gwneud y sylw fan hyn nad yw'r ffordd y mae Bwyd a Diod Cymru'n cael ei ddisgrifio fel brand ar hyn o bryd yn gywir. Nid yw—. Wel, mae hyd yn oed cadeirydd y bwrdd bwyd a diod yn eich tystiolaeth chi'n cyfeirio at y ffaith bod gwaith yn cael ei wneud ar y strategaeth ac mae gwaith yn cael ei wneud ar ddatblygu'r brand. Wel, all rhywun ddim dweud bod brand gyda chi mewn golwg os ŷch chi'n dal yn datblygu'r brand, ac—hynny yw, dyw'r disgrifiad presennol ddim yn cyrraedd, yn fy marn i, lle mae angen i frand fod felly.
Os ŷch chi'n edrych ar Cymru y Gwir Flas, datblygwyd y brand mewn ymgynghoriaeth gyda'r diwydiant. Roedd yna safonau eithaf clir, roedd yna nifer o ddulliau o gadarnhau'r brand yna, ac—hynny yw, hefyd, bu yna fesur ar ymwybyddiaeth o'r brand yna gan Beaufort Research ar ran y WDA, ar ran y Llywodraeth, ac, erbyn 2012, roedd 67 y cant o'r sampl—sampl eithaf sylweddol—yn adnabod y brand neu wedi dod ar draws lle roedd yna hyrwyddo ar gyfer y brand. Wel, hynny yw, dŷch chi ddim yn dileu brand pan ŷch chi wedi buddsoddi—. A buddsoddwyd, mae'n deg i ddweud, o leiaf £50 miliwn o arian y Llywodraeth yn datblygu'r brand yna, nid yn uniongyrchol o ran hyrwyddo ond roedd yr elfennau—roedd yr ymwybyddiaeth a phresenoldeb y brand yn ymddangos. Yr hyn ddigwyddodd ar ôl penderfyniad y Llywodraeth, er cynghorwyd gan y gweision sifil a gan bobl annibynnol na ddylid dileu'r brand yna—hynny yw, bu yna aneglurdeb ac, i ddweud y gwir, mi fyddwn i'n dweud mai aneglurdeb o ran ffocws ar y brand oedd yn gyfrifol i'r hyn ddigwyddodd yn y sioe amaethyddol, a dweud y gwir, a dŷn ni'n dal heb brand.
Ond gwnes i gyfeirio'n gynt—ac rwy'n credu ei fod e'n bwysig iawn deall hyn—. Byddwn i'n gofyn y cwestiwn: ai'r sector gyhoeddus dylai fod yn datblygu brand bwyd a diod? Nage. Y sector breifat dylai fod yn gwneud hynny, ac, mewn gwirionedd, roedd yna drafodaethau gyda'r sector breifat yn ôl yn 2012-13, ac roedd yna awydd gan rai cwmnïoedd i gymryd drosodd cyfrifoldeb am y brand, ac mae'r ffaith wedyn—pan fo gyda chi frand yn cael ei reoli, yn cael ei ddatblygu, gan y sector breifat, mae'n caniatáu defnyddio arian i'w hyrwyddo fe. Mae yna gyfyngiadau sylweddol ar ddatblygu brand sydd mewn rheolaeth y sector gyhoeddus, a dyna oedd un o fanteision y Gwir Flas. Fe lwyddwyd i gyflwyno'r gwaith gyda state aid notification felly, a does yna ddim unrhyw ganllaw ar hyn o bryd ar gyfer hyrwyddo bwyd a diod o ran hysbysu.
Os caf i orffen ar y pwynt yma: un o'r argymhellion a wnaethpwyd gan y panel bwyd a ffermio i'r Gweinidogion yn 2012 oedd y dylid rhoi cyfrifoldeb am ddatblygu'r brand yna a chyfrifoldeb am y sector i dwylo'r sector breifat ac i'r diwydiant, oherwydd y diwydiant sydd yn mynd i yrru hwn yn y dyfodol, a dyna, yn sicr, oedd profiad Cymru y Gwir Flas.
Well, that is, in the paper that I presented, I said that it was an error to eradicate the brand, and one asks, 'Why remove a brand?' The brand was developed from 2004 in consultation with the industry, where there was a clear demand for a brand for food and drink in Wales. And, in referring to the brand, I'd like to make a comment here that the way in which Food and Drink Wales is described as a brand at present is not accurate. Even the chair of the food and drink board in your evidence referred to the fact that work is being done on the strategy and the brand development, but you can't say that you have a brand in view if you're still developing the brand, and—that is, the current description doesn't reach, in my opinion, where a brand needs to be, if you like.
If you look at the True Taste, that was developed in consultation with the industry. There were clear standards, there were a number of methods of confirming that brand, and—that is, there was measurement of the recognition of that brand done by Beaufort Research on behalf of the WDA, of the Government, and, by 2012, 67 per cent of the sample—quite a significant sample—recognised the brand or had come across promotion for the brand. Well, that is, you don't remove a brand when you have invested—. And it's fair to say that at least £50 million-worth of Government money was invested in developing that brand, not directly in promotion, but there were elements—recognition of and the presence of the brand was happening. But what happened after the Government's decision, although there was advice given by civil servants and others that the brand shouldn't be removed—that is, there was a lack of clarity, and I would say that the lack of clarity in terms of the focus on the brand was responsible for what happened in the Royal Welsh Show, and we still don't have a brand.
But I did refer earlier—and I do think it's important to understand this—. I would ask the question: is it the public sector who should be developing a food and drink brand? No. It should be the private sector doing that, and, in truth, there were discussions with the private sector back in 2012-13, and there was a desire among some companies to take on responsibility for the brand, and the fact then that—when you have a brand that's being managed or controlled and developed by the private sector, that allows the use of funding to promote it. There are significant restrictions on developing a brand that's in the control of the public sector, and that was one of the advantages of True Taste. The work was done with state aid notification, and there are no guidelines at present for promoting food and drink in terms of advertising.
If I could finish on this point: one of the recommendations that was made by the food and farming panel to the Ministers in 2012 was that responsibility for developing the brand and responsibility for the sector should be put in the hands of the private sector and the industry, because the industry is going to drive this in the future and, certainly, that was the experience of the True Taste brand.
Diolch yn fawr. Diolch am hynna.
Thank you very much. Thank you for that.
Thank you very much, Chair. Apologies for being late. If I could ask about food destinations, I think, Matthew, you highlighted how you could basically promote yourself as a food destination in your evidence to us, and there are some good examples of that in other parts of the UK. How could we develop that here in Wales?
Do you mind if I just briefly—? You've mentioned trade deals, and I didn't answer that question. Really important point. In the past, I have to say, the UK have been very remiss in terms of ensuring that UK products are in trade deals. The Europeans have been very successful, but ours get left out. I constantly get e-mails from DEFRA saying, 'By the way, we're now discussing a new trade deal for x, y or z. What UK products should be listed?' So, I put, 'All of them.' And of course, Scotch whisky gets in there, maybe Scotch beef and lamb, possibly, Stilton cheese—that's about it. And that's where I fear that—. You're absolutely right—the US does not like protected food names. In fact, they took the European Commission to the World Trade Organization over, actually, Budweiser and Budvar. They took the European Union to the World Trade Organization, which said, 'Legitimate exercise, however, you have to let third countries like Colombia, or whatever, use the deal.' I have concerns with future trade deals. We'll be so desperate to get them that we'll throw everything else out the window.
On the point of chlorinated chicken, which you all had in your minds, do you know, it's going to be forced on us, I suspect. However, you know when you read the ingredients on a package and you see all the things that you don't want—the E numbers and whatever—I think there ought to be a requirement to have certain processes put on there. So, if your chicken's been chlorinated, it ought to be in the list of how it's produced. If your beef's got hormones in it, it ought to say how it's produced. So, then the consumer can make the choice.
Turning to your point—thanks very much indeed—it's an exciting future, I think, for food names in terms of destinations. In Melton Mowbray, when we started our campaign, unemployment in Milton was at 25 per cent. We'd had mad cow disease, we'd got the agricultural sector hit, our mine had been closed, our army depot had been closed. It was really a sink in terms of what was happening to our economy. So, 21 years ago, we decided, okay, we'd start a campaign of protecting the Melton Mowbray pork pie, links with Stilton cheese, et cetera, et cetera. And now our economy, just from protected food names tourism, is worth £78 million-£80 million a year, and we are the tenth smallest borough in the country. We actually earn more than Lincoln does, and it's got a ruddy cathedral and a castle and all the rest of it per head of population.
So, I think there is a way of doing this, and certainly in terms of some of your festivals. I always go to the Abergavenny festival, for example—those sorts of things. You used to have the Cardiff cheese fair here as well at one stage. And I think that they could actually be extremely important in terms of being a tourism destination. But it's sort of saying—. It's a whole integrated thing. It's saying, 'Okay, let's have small producers, and how do we support small producers so they can get to a farmers' market or they can get to a food festival?' I'm afraid that some of the larger food festivals are now moving out the smaller producers, who don't even get a look in. They're too expensive. We've got our cheese fair coming up next month. It's the largest cheese fair in the UK, and we charge cheese makers £48 for the weekend, and they get sandwiches, a supper and coffee two days. Now, I think that's worth it, and some of them make £3,000, £4,000, £5,000—I don't care; they're there and it's an opportunity for them.
So, it starts right with the small producer. It's sort of saying, 'Okay, if you're going to build a new dairy plant or if you want to build a new whatever, make sure there's a window so the public can actually see what's going on.' People love to see—people are nosy. If you have a building site, everybody looks through the crack to see what they're building. And I think that there ought to be a grant so, 'If you're going to build something and you have a tourism aspect to it, we'll give you a bit of cash so you can turn it into a visitor centre.' People love to see things being made. And it's that sort of link up in terms of, 'Okay, what areas can we promote?' I mean, Wales is great for cheese, for example. A cheese trail—those sorts of things. But also people like to experience things. They like to see how things are made and then dabble with it themselves. Not so far away, in Nottinghamshire, there's a school of artisan food, and people go on courses there to learn to make things, and it's part of that experience.
So, I think there's a great opportunity of linking—not just, 'Come to this place, and by the way the food's good', but 'Come to this place because the food's good, because you'll see food being made.' I went to Arbroath, and I thought 'Bloody hell, they've got the Arbroath smokie, and not a single hotel has it as a breakfast item. Ting!' You know, the Arbroath breakfast. You know the Ulster fry and the English breakfast; well the Welsh breakfast ought to be something sort of unique to Wales. Those sorts of things where you start to have those sorts of identities, so that when you come to a place, everybody's on board. And certainly in Melton, everybody's on board. We do stay, play and explore. So for, I think it's £104, a couple can stay the night, get dinner and then they go to three different places and they get £14 off a pork-pie tasting and they see a demonstration of how to hand raise a Melton Mowbray pork pie, they do cheese sampling in a cheese shop, they go to a local brewery and tour the brewery and sample little brews, or whatever, and they spend. It's those sorts of things that—
Could I just say—? Amen to everything you've said, but, with Melton Mowbray, you had a product there, didn't you—the Melton Mowbray pork pie—which you've got protected status for. So, you had something to hang your hat on. How practical is it for areas that maybe haven't got such an identifiable product or identifiable experience to build that experience up from ground zero, basically?
Well, you've started, actually, with your protected food names—the Denbigh plum, for example. You've just got that. We've got the local Syston plum five miles down the road, bless them, and they've proudly got it on their sign, 'Home of the Syston plum'. So they've got a chap who's there producing plum jam, they've got a nursery producing plum trees, they've got a bakery producing things, a plum festival. And, of course, then, at the other end, you can have plum alcohol—slivovitz and that sort of thing. And suddenly, in Denbighshire, you could have a plum festival and those sort of things start to grow. It's actually identifying products or areas where you can actually then see that there's something there, so why not grow it? No matter how small. There's a thing called the Blaby tomato. Who would ever have heard of the Blaby tomato? Certainly not you, but there is a Blaby tomato and a tomato festival might well be in the offing.
You're right—we were lucky, we've got Stilton cheese and we've got Melton Mowbray pork pies, but there are lots of other places. Bakewell has a pudding festival, for example, and you've now started to identify your own—I gave you a list—products. Each one of those little villages ought to be having their own little festival. We produce elderflower cordial in Melton Mowbray: elderflower festival. We've just started.
I also have pork pies.
I referred, in the paper I submitted to you, to this issue about engagement, and I think it's very interesting how you manage that. There are enough products, there are enough festivals, but it's a question of how you generate that innovation amongst producers. I made reference in the paper that my concern was that there isn't sufficient engagement along the food chain. There is no engagement at the moment along the agri-food chain, from farmers through to hospitality.
Again, with the demise of the agri-food partnership and the regional structure for that, what you had was you had all these partners around the table identifying opportunities, identifying how you promote attractions in terms of food and festivals, et cetera. I think the committee needs to ask the question: are the structures in place at the moment to ensure that there is sufficient engagement along the food chain? The only thing you had was the food and drink board and, again, in the paper I made the reference that I'm of the view that they did not have the resources, the capacity or the capability to ensure that engagement. I think that is a legitimate question to ask: why has that not taken place?
Can I just say—? I think it's an interesting point. On the radio this morning, they were talking about the food promotion event that's going on at the Celtic Manor today, and the Minister's making an announcement of £22 million. But you're saying that there's not that engagement, but yet this is the second major food promotion event, bringing international buyers in, small processors and producers as well. Where's the missing link, then?
Well, I was in discussion with Carmarthenshire County Council last week. As you're aware, they're looking at a strategy for rural Carmarthenshire, and I raised this issue with them because they were very keen to focus on the food sector. I raised the issue: is there a mechanism by which all those partners come together within Carmarthenshire? And the answer is 'no', but there was a partnership across the region. Yes, there is engagement at the high level, but that is not—. The quality of the engagement and structures you put in place are essential if you are to create an innovative sector, and I am of the view that that is not in place at this time, and I think the committee needs to ask that question.
Just a quick question back to, I suppose, Matthew and Wynfford. Assuming we get all this right—this food strategy and, you know, we're selling our goods—there's another part to it that I think needs looking at and joining up, and that's the training of people to deliver, so whether it's delivering at the hospitality end so people feel really welcome and people know how to make that a really good experience, or whether we have people trained for the innovation that's coming quite quickly upon us. So, the question is: how should we start joining those two things up, because they can't be separate?
Skills and craft skills, heritage skills, are extremely important and, in fact, there are certain products now that will only survive if the skills are retained—cheesemaking, piemaking, chapmaking, Staffordshire oatcakes, those sort of things. Those skills need to be passed on, and if there's a Welsh school of rural food, or whatever, where those skills are taught, that's great. There are actually cheesemakers who do run courses, and that's great.
But on the wider case, I do feel that there is a lack of training in terms of chefs and restaurants, and in the hospitality sector generally. I think Wales could do itself an awful lot of good by investing in young people in those skills, but also, actually—. There are too many programmes on food and chefs and the rest of it, and everybody aspires to a Jamie Oliver, or whatever. However, at the next level down, that's really where I think we certainly need people in our restaurants in our areas. I always remember a little place in Chaumont-Gistoux, when I lived in Belgium, which made the most beautiful—and you're all going to get hungry—tarts and apple tarts, tarte au sucre and whatever, and people would come from miles around. So, you don't need to be in the most expensive shopping area in Cardiff; people will travel for good food. And it's those sorts of entrepreneurial skills that I think we do need to focus on.
Let's face it, if we're talking about innovation, my view is that it's just not the producer of the food, but it's the packaging industry and it's all the service industry where I think you could then help in terms of innovation. Look at Harper Adams University as to what they're doing with a food processing unit, whereby a small producer is making stuff in the kitchen and wants to go slightly upscale, experiment for a while, or needs extra capacity, and they go and hire that for the day. It's those sorts of things that I think help in terms of small producers.
And let's not forget, there's a large market for producing ethnic food now. In Melton Mowbray, we're one of the largest producers of tofu, largest producers of paneer cheese for the market. Who'd have thought it? We have a halal slaughterhouse. We don't just produce Melton Mowbray pork pies. We're actually starting on that route. And don't forget, then, there's the free-from, the gluten free—a vegan won the British Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray this week.
Just to add, you have Simon Wright coming to give evidence later on. I think that is a question he can elaborate very well on, I think, and is very qualified to answer some of those queries.
In your written evidence, you touched on regions of countries that do food promotion very well. I think Brittany, the Basque Country and New Zealand were in your evidence. Could you elaborate a bit more on that to the committee, please?
I spend a lot of time in France. I lived in Nantes in France, which is a twin city with Cardiff, which is historically part of Brittany but is not currently part of Brittany. What was very evident in Brittany—in Nantes, particularly—was that Breton food was very evident where you were. You'd go to the supermarkets and you'd see a whole aisle dedicated to Breton foods. So, this all stemmed from the celebration of local foods and a clear branding of the local foods. They have developed an association, which was created by food producers in the early 1990s at a time of difficulty in the industry, and then, in 1995, they developed a logo that clearly shows that food is from Brittany. This is a very clear logo and it's very evident on food products in supermarkets, in local shops, but what has been seen is that this has also been beneficial to Breton companies in their international opportunities. The brand recognition is at 97 per cent of the logo within Brittany, so I think that shows the strength of how the food's been celebrated there. Also, the members of the association that I've been speaking to as part of my research have said that the benefits of being a member of this association and of this brand, has really been important for them in the way that they have developed their business, not only in the domestic market across France, but also internationally as well. What's been important, I think—and Wynfford mentioned this earlier—is that this has been run by, originally, the producers themselves, so this is an independent organisation that oversees this brand. And I think that's been key to the way in which it's grown and in which the support that the members of this brand receive, in a strong network of producers who come together and then see benefits for themselves.
Did they fund it as well, or did that come from the regional/national government? How was the funding done?
Members pay to be part of the association, so there are membership fees apart from this. There are elements of funding that come from the region as well, but it's managed by the association that controls the brand. So I think that's been something that's been key for this brand as well. And there are other models. The New Zealand model is developed by a branch of the Government; that's also the same in the Basque Country as well. They're maybe not seen on the same extent as we can see with the Breton brand; I think that's really been something that's been quite significant in seeing how regional brands could work quite well. And other parts of France, then, have also seen the success of this, and it developed from there.
Can I add to that? I think this question of who drives the brand—and I said earlier, I think that it is important for the committee to ask that question: can a food and drink brand managed by Government succeed? Another question that needs to be asked: is the engagement and the—how any food brand relates to the wider Welsh brand. And in particular, I think there's a very important question to ask: you cannot develop a food and drink brand for Wales unless there is close synergy with the brand for Welsh lamb and Welsh beef, and the Hybu Cig Cymru brand. And that synergy does not exist. The True Taste brand was developed with alignment with the Welsh lamb and Welsh beef brand deliberately, because they are the leaders in the marketplace, in terms of promoting food and drink from Wales. So, I think those are key questions.
Because I think there is a danger of glibly talking about a brand without a clear understanding of how you promote and develop a brand. And in the Welsh context that's very important, because there has been ambiguity about promoting Wales as a brand since the establishment of the Assembly, and we have gone round in circles. So, what is the relationship of the food and drink brand with the wider brand for Wales? And, if that brand is to sit within the public sector, a recognition of the restrictions in terms of public sector funds to promote a brand is needed. My view would be that any development of a new brand needs to sit in the private sector, not in the public sector.
You don't have a brand for food unless you have your flagship products—and you've got some, you've certainly got some: the Welsh beef and lamb, and all the other ones that you've got protected food names for, as well as some of the others. However, doing it on your own is tough, and margins are tough. And each time we used to go to DEFRA and say, 'Look, there's a European fund to help in terms of promotion', and they said, 'We're not interested.' Whereas Quality Meat Scotland, for example, would actually put money into the pot and get some money back, also match funding from the European Government, in order to promote. And I just had the awful experience of the lady who promotes British cheese being paid for by the Italian Government, with European funds, to promote Italian products across the UK. I just thought, well—. So, although, as I say, your flagship brands are your private sector, having the backing of a Government is very, very powerful, especially if there's a bit of cash involved.
Can I add to that as well? Speaking to many food producers, they've been very positive about the role of Welsh Government in promoting Welsh products, particularly in international markets. What we've seen maybe is that internationalisation has been more of a process of—businesses have to be more reactive in the way that they internationalise, in that the Welsh Government has sought out companies and encouraged them to attend trade shows abroad, so I think the role of the Welsh Government has been very important in this.
Sorry, on that point, it is identifying the mechanism by which you can find collaboration between the private-sector-led brand and the utilisation of public sector funds. That is the key. And that is something that I think the committee should be asking for more work to be done on.
All three areas that have just been mentioned, they all have a balanced offer—that everything that's on the plate is local—whereas here in Wales we have some brands that are really respected, but our lack of any horticulture—. Denbigh Plum is one, but that's a lone voice. How are we going to develop along the lines that would enable people to think that all food, including vegetables—? And in the context of climate change as well as Brexit, this is super important. So, how are we going to develop our horticulture so that we get horticulture on display in the food hall in the Royal Welsh Show, which is absent at the moment?
You take the example of the Japanese after the war with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. What they did was, with everything that was imported into Japan, they said, 'Right, how can we replace that? How can we do it ourselves?' And, little by little, they started to build up cars, they started to build up engineering, they started to build up more, and shoddy at first, but then they started to get better, and they started to get better. There’s no reason why—. You start looking at what comes into us.
In Leicestershire, I go to a deli or whatever, and I say, 'Where does that come from? Why can't we produce that for ourselves?' Biscuits, or coulis, or soups, or whatever it might be; why can't we do that ourselves? And, to that extent, in Melton, we have Brooksby Melton College, a land-based college that does specialise in horticulture, and we're now starting—. Have you ever seen a place called Villandry in France? It’s a château that’s got a beautiful garden, but the garden is actually made of vegetables. And, to that extent, there’s no reason why you shouldn't set up a school of horticulture that then starts to encourage people to do horticulture. As you say, look at the plate, see what should be on it and what is on it, and then start looking at ways of promoting those businesses into those sectors.
So, looking closer to home, what does the Scottish food plan tell us about diversifying our offer?
I think that if you look at the Scottish example, I think as you said, they developed their strategy in 2014—four years after the Welsh strategy. And if you look at the inclusivity within that strategy of looking across sectors and also where they have now reached, they are now looking at legislation to ensure that Ministers across the Scottish Government are engaged in ensuring delivery on that strategy. I think that—. And I make no apologies for referring back to the previous strategy, because many of the answers to some of the questions that you raised were in that strategy, the strategy that was developed by the 19 stakeholders across the industry with the excellent leadership from Terry Marsden and Kevin Morgan from Cardiff University. And as they say in their report in 2016, that strategy was not implemented. I think that should be of concern for this committee. And also, if you set a policy strategy, there must be a commitment long term to develop that, particularly in this sector in terms of food and the future of food in Wales, and for the inhabitants and people of Wales. So, there needs to be that engagement and that investment in the future.
If you've got a new area coming in and you want to develop it, first of all, you need know-how, because someone doesn't know automatically how to grow tomatoes or cucumbers or salads or whatever it may be. So, first of all, you've got to find some way of giving them skills or know-how. Secondly, you've got to reduce the risk for them of someone coming in. So, to that extent, it may well be that you have to punt a little bit of money towards their way. But, thirdly, you've then got to help them with outlets in terms of, 'You produce that, and we'll find an outlet for you.' If you start that thing rolling and then you start people saying, 'Actually, I wouldn't mind doing that—I wouldn't mind diversifying.' In our area, I don't want a single farmer producing a primary product without thinking what value added he could put on to that product first, and retain as much at the farm gate as possible.
Just to turn briefly then to branding and to what extent the Welsh brand is advantageous to Wales as opposed to a British brand. We heard in previous evidence that, although there's great strength in the Welsh brand, there may be occasions when, in some countries, there isn't the sort of recognition of the Welsh brand that we would like, and that it might be better for Welsh produce to be branded as British, or Welsh alongside British, and I think Asia was given as an example. Do you recognise the strength of that view, or would you have a contrary view?
I wouldn't encourage having Welsh and British together; I think that causes confusion and I think that having a single identity would be very important. I recognise that in some markets, particularly in Asia maybe, recognition or awareness of Wales and Wales's reputation for food might not be very strong, so some businesses might wish to use British branding in that case. Ultimately, businesses can decide if they want to brand themselves as being British or Welsh in terms of how they promote their story.
But I think there are advantages for companies in retaining a Welsh identity, because of what was said earlier about Wales being a natural place, a place of food—there's a great reputation for food in Wales. And particularly in the markets where maybe Wales has enjoyed success recently, the European markets, America, the reputation of the UK is being seen as not being very positive in terms of food. There was a report last year by, I think, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board that showed that, in these markets, the reputation of the UK for food wasn't particularly positive. So, I think there's an opportunity for Wales to differentiate itself and show the identity of food that Wales has, which is increasing, and things like protected foods are really driving this reputation forward. So, I think that's positive, to use a Welsh brand for this. And things like the 'Value of Welshness' report of last year also highlighted this as well, that people value Welshness in their food branding.
I think the key thing is clarity: clarity on where you want to position yourself in the marketplace. Many of the products in Wales are not unique. I was in Cumbria last week, and you could go along there to one of the farm shops in Cumbria, and you had a look at all the products, and you could see similar products from Wales. But it’s the provenance; where they are produced is the key. But I think what we must have is clarity on the positioning of Welsh food, and also then how you substantiate it. I think that, in the paper, I made reference to the True Taste awards and now the Great Taste awards. Well, that’s not positioning it with a Welsh positioning. So, I think that is the key thing.
I think the analysis that Gwyn Howells of Hybu Cig Cymru gave to the committee clarified, certainly, the position where you can use the British position to open markets in certain places. I was involved, when I was with the WDA, in opening the market in Dubai, and I think that, if I recollect, Gwyn Howells made this point: it is the Welsh lamb that is the key in that marketplace.
But if you're selling a commodity, to some extent, it's not quite that it doesn't matter where it comes from, but the brand isn't so important; it's the inherent qualities of the commodity product. So, for example, if you've got a British trade delegation, that's great, go along with it and, you know, promote Welsh foods within that. However, just think about—. I mean, I'm a foodie, and I go and travel the world, and I meet other foodies and whatever, and there's nothing better that a foodie likes than finding something out that somebody else hasn't tried before.
To that extent, it might well be an advantage, where you go to Brazil—and, in fact, I actually produced Colwick cheese in Brazil, in a little farmhouse there, for a while, and, oh, they loved it, and they called it 'English cheese'. That was great. But nobody else had heard of England in connection with cheese. They'd heard of Holland, they'd heard of Italy, but not the UK in terms of cheese. So, to that extent, I would actually go on your instincts. Foodies love to find things that are different and that nobody else has heard about, and it’s a new fashion, and 'Have you tried that stuff from a place called Wales? No? It’s got a dragon there.' 'Wow!' Let's face it, you're halfway in there in Asia with your dragon. Let’s face it, seriously, you know, it's that dragon. Well, we have our dragon, and to that extent, try our dragon, and try our foods. And I think that's an opening for you.
Okay. Just, again, going back to matters we discussed a little earlier, I wonder, Robert, whether you might say a little bit more about exports, you know, and how we get Welsh food producers exporting to a much greater extent. You said, didn't you, that it seems to be Welsh Government that is the driving force, rather than the businesses themselves? So, do you think we should go with the grain of that in terms of Welsh Government policy, or should we be trying to encourage businesses to do more for themselves?
There are examples of businesses that are proactive in seeking export. I don't want to give the impression that's not the case. But speaking to a lot of food producers, they've said that they've been encouraged to do so by the Welsh Government, and maybe it wasn't a thought of theirs to really pursue international opportunities, and speaking to some food producers, they've said to me that they'd be happy to have a large contract with a supermarket and supply them and that would suit them fine. But I think having export markets as part of your sales is very important, because it spreads the risk across having different buyers that you can sell to. So, export markets, I think, are very important and we have seen a growth in that over the last decade or so with Welsh companies.
What has been particularly good that food businesses have told me is that the Welsh foods' stand at international trade shows stands out as being truly reflective of what Welsh food is, and that comes from maybe having the red dragon as part of it, as part of the brand, if you want, of Welsh food. But also I think it's the way in which Welsh food is promoted as a means of quality, and good products, and value products as well. That's something that's very important. Although, I think, moving forward, it might be very difficult to maintain this sort of approach, it would be good to see more maybe local champions, people who had successes in exporting located in different parts of Wales, maybe helping to encourage producers in local areas towards export. I think maybe creating networks around these people who have had success in international markets would be very valuable. Because many of the main problems that small businesses that want to export have are problems of logistics and how they can distribute products in international markets, or foreign market knowledge and things like this. The best people to advise them would be people who have the experience of international markets, so I think it would be good to create more of a network around these people.
I would say that, in my experience, all the companies that are involved in exhibitions will always be very complimentary of their involvement because they get subsidised to be there. But I think there is a need to review the interventions at this time. I've had a number of comments where it has been raised, 'Are there too many interventions, too many support mechanisms?' You have mechanisms of support directly managed and financed by the Welsh Government and then you've got a plethora of rural development programmes and there is substantial duplication in that area at this time. I think the committee should be asking the question, 'Is there a need to scope out clearly what interventions are funded by the public sector, either by core funding from Welsh Government or by European funds?' Because I am certainly of the view—and this was highlighted to me in discussions recently with one of the key providers of support—that there were too many interventions and that individual food procurers are now confused about the route to market, if you like.
Obviously, providing trade shows, providing funding is great, but for a producer, the scariest thing is, 'What do I produce, and to what standard, and how do I get it across a border?' With Brexit, it's going to be even tougher. It may well be that, if you actually supported small businesses in terms of the regulations that you need to do and how to export and whatever, you might steal a march on your English neighbours in terms of getting there first. I think there's a tremendous opportunity in terms of Brexit for Welsh products, because, as I say, you have started to get a reputation, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be built on. It's just, as I say, that know-how.
Just one point in terms of inspections—and certainly this affects the protected food names, by the way—they have to have an annual inspection, and the cost off that now is starting to grow significantly because it's the trading standards or whoever who does it, and they're now starting to charge such that actually they're saying it's not worth getting protected food name status, because it's getting too expensive. I think that's something to look at. But, when someone inspects, why don't they just go through the whole gamut and that one inspection does everybody? And not only that, but the inspectors then say, 'And by the way, if you want to export, all you need to do it that, that and that, and actually you're ready to go.' That sort of advice, I think, would be great.
Thank you. We're at time, but Dai Lloyd has got a question I think we really would like to get asked.
Yn nhermau bwyd môr—. Y dyddiau yma, dwi hefyd yn rhan-amser yn feddyg teulu ym Mhen-clawdd, y pentref bach pysgota rhamantus yna ar arfordir gogledd penrhyn Gŵyr sydd yn enwog, wel, o leiaf yn lleol, am gynhyrchu cocos a bara lawr. Ac felly, yn nhermau llefydd i fynd—. Dŷn ni ddim yn naturiol yn cynhyrchu porc-peis, ond cocos a bara lawr, ac yn nhermau'r brecwast Cymreig, buaswn i'n licio gweld mwy o hyrwyddo hynny. Beth ydych chi'n feddwl yn nhermau ymwybyddiaeth o fwyd môr lleol—yng Nghymru yn y lle cyntaf? Dwi'n deall nad ydy bwyd môr at ddant pawb, ond, wrth gwrs, mae o'n gynnyrch pwysig yn lleol.
In terms of seafood—. These days, I'm also a part-time GP in Penclawdd, a romantic village in the north Gower area, which is famous for the production of cockles and laverbread. So, in terms of places to go—. We don't produce pork pies, but cockles and laverbread, and in terms of the Welsh breakfast, I'd like to see more promotion of that. What do you think in terms of the recognition of local seafood—in Wales to begin with? I understand that not everyone likes seafood, but, of course, is a very important local produce.
Mae hynny'n rhan o ddiwylliant Cymru a threftadaeth Cymru—cynnyrch fel cocos a bara lawr. Yn ddiweddar, roedd gyda ni ymwelydd i Brifysgol Abertawe ac roedd un o'm cydweithwyr i eisiau mynd â fe i gael bara lawr a chocos i frecwast, ac mi oedd yn ei ffeindio fe'n anodd ffeindio lle yn Abertawe i gael rhai, felly roeddwn i'n siomedig iawn. Gyda bwyd môr—mae'r môr yn rhan bwysig o Gymru, a dŷn ni'n gallu cynhyrchu lot fawr o fwyd môr, ond dŷn ni ddim yn bwyta lot o fwyd môr yn y wlad yma, na Phrydain chwaith, felly dŷn ni'n allforio, felly mae'r marchnadoedd yma'n bwysig iawn.
Un peth hoffwn i ychwanegu at y drafodaeth gynharach ynglŷn â thwristiaeth yw fy mod i'n siomedig iawn i weld y llynedd, gyda thema Blwyddyn y Môr Croeso Cymru, yn y cynnyrch marchnata a oedd yn flaenllaw o ran hyrwyddo Blwyddyn y Môr, doedd dim sôn am fwyd môr. Felly, roedd hynny'n siomedig iawn, roeddwn i'n meddwl. Felly, hoffwn weld mwy o waith yn cael ei wneud rhwng Croeso Cymru a'r diwydiant bwyd a diod.
That is part of the culture of Wales and our heritage—products such as laverbread and cockles. Recently, we had a visitor at Swansea University and one of my colleagues wanted to take him to have laverbread and cockles for breakfast and found it very difficult in Swansea to find some, so I was very disappointed. With seafood—the sea is an important part of Wales, and we can produce a lot of seafood, but we don't eat a lot of seafood in this country, nor in Britain either, so we do export, and therefore that market is very important.
One thing I'd like to add to the discussion earlier regarding tourism is that I was very disappointed to see last year, given the theme of the Year of the Sea with Visit Wales, that in the marketing material that was at the forefront in promoting the Year of the Sea, there was no reference to seafood. So, that was very disappointing, I think. So, I'd like to see more work being done between Visit Wales and the food and drink industry.
Sorry, I wasn't going to speak in Welsh. [Laughter.] I think you're absolutely right: a Welsh breakfast with a seafood breakfast would be absolutely brilliant. Who sells the most fish around? I mean, sadly, our last fishmonger in Melton Mowbray has gone. He's just closed up his shop, and we're as far from the sea as possible. I think there's an unique opportunity to develop fish within the country, and let's face it, the Catholics did more for the fish industry than anybody—fish Friday, I think, should be retained. And to that extent, I think the way to go about it is for the younger generation—. People only know fish if it's coated in batter. We'll, it shouldn't be—that's an alternative. So, I would have fish Fridays, I'd make sure that every school and hospital and whatever has fish on a Friday, and it's not battered. But, interestingly, the people who sell the most fish are the fish and chip shops. Now, they sell pies—and we've just had the British Pie Awards—they sell pies and they're starting to do other things. Why shouldn't they actually sell other types of fish—maybe prepared fish, other types of fish—within these fish and chip shops and use, actually, them as fish sellers rather than just your basic, the gourmet fish? So, you've got wonderful fish here, you've got wonderful seafood, and a lot more should be made of it. And as I say, the Welsh breakfast, the seafood breakfast—great idea—making sure that hotels actually have a fish alternative. And you go to a lot of restaurants and they don't have fish. It should almost be compulsory that you've got fish on the menu.
Sorry, could I just say: you're very welcome to Melton Mowbray if you want to come. Seriously. We've actually had the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs policy team—when they had the new policy, they came and spent a day with us. We have the largest cattle market in the town centre still—we've just put £6 million into a new cattle centre, which is visitor-friendly. We have about, I think, 300,000 people visit our cattle market per year. So, lots to do and see. You're very, very welcome. If you want to arrange a visit there, I'll set it up for you.
Thank you very much. Can I thank the panel very much for the informative time they've spent with us. I found it very helpful. I'm sure my colleagues have as well. Thank you very much for coming.
Can I welcome our second panel of the morning and can I ask you to introduce yourselves for the record, please?
Okay. I'm David Chapman and I'm the director in Wales for Hospitality Cymru, which is the Welsh arm of UKHospitality. It's the organisation that represents hotels, restaurants, high-street pubs, inns, brewers, and the food and drink industry broadly. It's been in operation for about 12 months. I was formerly the director for the British Hospitality Association, which was the hotels and restaurants association in Wales. But alongside that, I'm also a food and drink consultant and I've worked with the red meat industry and other elements in the food and drink sector, and I chaired the Assembly's cultural tourism partnership for seven or eight years, alongside other activities. So, I've a fairly broad knowledge of the food and drink industry, as well as my current position.
Apologies for the short answer: I'm chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance and was vice-chair of Pembrokeshire Tourism, and I used to work at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
I'm Simon Wright. I've run restaurants in west Wales for the last 30 years. In that time, I've also edited the AA restaurant guide, been a food ambassador for Wales, and I write and broadcast about food as well.
Thank you all very much. If we can move straight to questions, and if I can start: what are your views on how food and drink is positioned within Wales's overall tourism offer, and should more and could more be done?
I think food tourism has been an undoubted success for Wales. The positioning of food tourism—it's very central in mainstream promotion, at a national level, at a regional level, even at a VisitBritain level. That's all been hugely successful. It's been great for destination branding, for promoting distinctiveness. It's played very well to the themed years we have here in Wales. It's addressed the very vexing challenges of seasonality, which has been very, very good, and it's just been very positive.
Yes, I think that it's definitely taken a step forward in recent years; we've sort of acknowledged the importance of food in the visitor experience. There's been a developed understanding of what that means in Wales, and also what's distinct about our offering in Wales, which I think is really important. I think we have started to communicate that in a better way. As I'll probably end up saying in relation to a number of questions on these subjects, it's all about the offering that we have, though, and the branding, and the message within food tourism can only ever be as good as what we've got to offer.
I think we can do more. I think it's been very good for Wales, and I think, in fact, it's given us a view of where we could end up, but I think it's probably going to cross over somewhat into the foundation economy element for tourism and hospitality. I've been involved for 20 years in representing the hospitality industry. We're a relatively young industry in terms of how we've represented ourselves. It was only in 1999 we had anything in Wales regarding tourism representation. I remember attending a meeting when Ieuan Wyn Jones was economy Minister at that time, and an economic plan was put forward, which included 16 different sectors, and tourism and hospitality wasn't one of those sectors at that time. We've moved forward, largely because of our efforts to represent and because of awareness raising, and also because of Assembly Members understanding the prioritisation that needs to be made about indigenous industries such as ours, to a point where it went through the nine key industries, and we now have an opportunity with the foundation economy. And I think we need to look very carefully at how that is developed, because while it is a fantastic move forward for us, looking at the sort of allegories that are bound to come up with such a title, foundations can often be left underground and not noticed. It's the shiny sides of skyscrapers that tend to get the attention of those who notice the buildings, and the shiny sides of skyscrapers in the past have been things like aerospace and automotive and industries that have a concentration of high earners, maybe, but, in fact, both of those industries plus pharmaceuticals don't add up to the job opportunities that hospitality does. So, I think we need to review where we're coming from, particularly in the new climate that will be emerging regarding our importation and exporting of food, and to look at a holistic solution that the foundation economy allows, which will bring us into a world-leading position to bring tourists to Wales to enjoy the whole of the cultural experience plus the food and drink experience, plus the wonderful landscapes and adventure tourism and everything else that we can offer in one go.
Thank you. We are developing a new Welsh food and drink strategy. What are your views on the direction of travel in terms of hospitality and tourism and also on branding and promotion of Welsh food products?
Well, I think that what I read in the report that this committee produced, I think in 2017, was it—? It was with respect to procurement and there were several references there to an all-encompassing food strategy, and I think that's the key. It has to be an all-encompassing food strategy, because to draw that circle, you have to include the businesses, the economy, education too, and there's branding, as we're going to go on to talk about. These things are all interrelated, and it's absolutely crucial that we grasp that, especially at this crucial crossroads that we are at. Whatever one's view on the current situation is with Brexit, it has at least made us look again at what we are doing with food and farming, and I feel that we are at a crossroads. Everybody is at a crossroads in the UK, but we are at a crossroads in Wales, and what I don't want us to do is to miss the opportunity to take the right turning. So, to me, it couldn't be more important. Obviously, it's my area, but also, as was said, there are an awful lot of jobs in our industry, and that sometimes doesn't get recognised. We're in a rural area, we are only five years old as a business, we employ 15 full-timers. That's unusual in a village, but it shows that it's not impossible either.
I had a meeting of small producers and hospitality providers at my venue some 18 months ago, and I think there were about 12 businesses in the room. Most of them were less than three years old, and I think we had about 200 employees between us, and, as is said, sometimes that can go under the radar because you employ 15 people—it's not the same as somebody moving in with 100 jobs, I understand that, but in terms of its contribution—. The one other thing I want to say in that respect is that we must realise the potential that's out there; it's extraordinary at the moment, because suddenly food amongst young people is back to being at the forefront of their minds. They're very interested and lots of very small businesses open on a shoestring quite often, they make incredible efforts to find premises and beat a lot of odds that are stacked against them—if you're on the high street and there are all the chains, et cetera—to make this work. It's too hard at the moment, and we have to find ways of developing it, because the potential is massive in Wales, I believe.
The Wales Tourism Alliance is very pleased to see that tourism is mentioned in the strategy. We would like to see more emphasis on tourism just about everywhere across all the sectors really. We kind of think we are a very underrated sector, so to have recognition of tourism in the strategy is very pleasing. WTA thinks also to strengthen those links—. When we look at the advisory board of the Food and Drink Industry Board, there is no representative from tourism there, and we think maybe that would be helpful to actually strengthen those links.
With regard to the direction of travel, our members tell us that perhaps improvements could be made in the supply chain. Without giving any names away, I was talking to a local business recently that is in the milling industry wanting to use Welsh wheat, and the producer wasn't able to sell to a small producer, so it had to go to a distributor in Kent. So, you couldn't buy it in Wales; you had to go to Kent and buy it at three times the price. So, the actual business in question ended up buying wheat from Loughborough. Now, that really doesn't help and I think it raises questions about the supply chain. A lot of businesses say that they're so busy they haven't got enough time to talk to local producers, so to actually have a one-stop local producers' shop may also be something of a help.
I think with regard to joined-up thinking, the tourism sector would like to see a little bit more of that. One of our great successes in Wales is cruise tourism, as we all know. So, that's been fantastic; we've got more and more cruise ships coming in. I live in Pembrokeshire—I live in Fishguard—and last year I had to take the head chef out in my car to go around to the butcher, the cheesemaker and the local sausage maker to buy some local produce. And when you think that there are over 100 cruise ships coming into Wales and we've got over 50,000 international visitors coming in, I think to have some sort of joined-up thinking where we can get some Welsh produce on board these cruise ships would be hugely helpful for our industry. So, I think that sort of thing—joined-up thinking—could be a little bit better. Also, creativity is good. We've got a catalyst INTERREG project in west Wales, which is just starting, which is trying to drive and inspire some creative thinking with regard to food production and getting food to market. That's a good case study exemplar and we'd like to see more of that sort of thing.
I think there's a radical opportunity for this committee to be able to transform the base economy of Wales and to actually charge up the advantages that exist out there at the moment but aren't interconnected. And I think we need to look right from start to finish, from age seven to 120, for everybody to be involved in this business, to be brought more into it. There is so much to try to describe.
Let me give you some examples. I think we should have a more co-ordinated strategy regarding food and schools. The curriculum is very tight and it doesn't have things like food preparation, food purchasing, food economy, or cooking plus pre-student-life-at-university help. And I think schools could link up with farmers locally. There's an exchange there where more could be brought about, about how the food is brought from the land into the kitchen, to take on the sort of light-switch idea of not many people understanding how electricity works. And I think we need to bring this consciousness to a higher level to encourage more interest in that process.
I did a project some years back that was an attempt to see if we could do a branded move into our central hotels, about using protected geographical indication food, particularly Welsh lamb and Welsh beef. It was very successful, but resources are needed to be able to do that and you need to tell the story on the tabletop about where that food comes from and to take it back. For our industry in Wales to be able to provide a consistent product, we need to have a good, solid supply all through the year, and we need to have it at a price that's sensitive to the customers who are here. We can add value if we do that and we can raise prices, and, as a result of raising prices and encouraging more take-up, we can then increase our job yield and our wage yield within the businesses, which I know is an important part of the post-Brexit Migration Advisory Committee activity. But this all needs to be looked at in a more holistic way.
Our businesses, in Simon and Andrew's areas, represent one in four of all jobs that are there. We support one in four jobs. In Gwynedd, it's about the same. Even in areas that you wouldn't normally associate with a high intensity of tourism, like, for instance, Merthyr, we have about one in 12 jobs. It's a very important industry in terms of consistency of employment and ability to do so right across Wales. We also make a major impact on what I would describe as the circular economy, and I think that's something that again allows this committee particularly to take a lead on. I'll give the example of a leading business in Pembrokeshire: a hotel, with about 80 or 90 employees, provides a local butcher with £250,000-worth of work a year, a greengrocer £250,000, and a fishmonger £250,000. So, the money from the people who go to that hotel goes back into that community. Now, in that community as a result of the growth of that business, other businesses are attracted, which helps to increase employment, but at the same time, so does a small Tesco. That small Tesco doesn't pay the same level of business rates as the hotel does. It provides more meals than the hotel does at a rate that is far less than the 20 per cent VAT that is provided in our industry, and it also has a completely different licensing position, where bottles can be bought there rather than the obligations that our members have.
So, the circular economy is an area I think where the Welsh Government could look at business rate relief, and it could look at how it can pump prime those areas in order to make more of what we have already and to keep that money local. In doing so, it would be a central objective of some of your Members here regarding things like food miles, for instance, and other environmental concerns about the highest level of animal welfare, which is what is enjoyed in the UK at the moment compared to some other nations where food is imported from. And there are all sorts of other issues that would provide a holistic answer, but in a nation that is as big as 3 million people, it's manageable and it could become a world leader in that way, I believe. Our association would be very pleased to try to help in prospering that indigenous and organic growth and to look and see where we would be able to work with you on that.
Yes, just briefly. You introduced the chain hotels and the ability of hotels to make an impact. Maybe this is a question for the other two gentlemen as well. I think many people understand how the supermarkets operate with local produce in particular—you'll have aisles of local produce, you'll have a lot of investment going into promote Wales, for example. We had Puffin Produce talking about the relationship they have with supermarkets. How do the big chains of hotels go about trying to commission local produce, or don't they do that at all? Just across the way here, Premier Inn, for example, just opened a big hotel. I have to say, from recollection, when I've stayed in some of the chains—. The boutique hotels do very well on it, but the chains don't. Or am I being too critical of them?
I think more can be done, you're absolutely right.
It is difficult, because—. I'm not an expert in that part of the game, but central buying is consistent with an awful lot of the offer, in very wide multiples. An argument would have to be made, I think, and this is where we're looking at encouragement and incentivisation, I think, to be able to do that, and that goes back to the visitor wanting that to happen. We need to be able to make that, as a requirement of the visitor, if you like, that, when they come to Wales, they expect something different and they're able to obtain that. So, I think that that's part of a holistic solution, and I would be very happy to take it back to our members and to say, 'Look, how can we do more with you on that?' But the answer would still come back to the two core arguments, I think, of supply and cost, and I believe that they're not insurmountable but I think we have to do some work on that.
The number of chain restaurants is obviously an issue as well. If you look at Cardiff Bay, for instance, you walk along Mermaid Quay and there's not a huge amount there that speaks of Wales. There's the odd place serving some Welsh produce; I had a look the other day. It's going to be very difficult, because of the way that those businesses operate, their central buying and because of the margins they operate on. It's very difficult to see a change in that unless the independents are given a chance to compete with those businesses.
There's no shortage of people wanting to set up hospitality businesses in Wales, in my view. In fact, people talk about it all the time, but there are a lot of barriers to entry, and so that's one thing that we should be looking at. Because, as has been said, those places will naturally buy from Wales. One of the issues that we have is there has to be enough stuff. We're not turning primary produce into added-value produce that we can sell within Wales to the extent that we possibly need to be. Even in my business, we've lost one or two key suppliers we happen to have at the moment. It's very difficult to find new ones at the moment. So you're relying on a particularly dedicated band of individuals. So, we need to find ways of turning primary produce into something that can be sold or getting it into the right retail, hotels and restaurants in Wales, and we're just not doing that to the degree that we should be doing at the moment. That's my feeling on it.
Take dairy, for example, again, if you're in our area of the market, there's potential to do an awful lot more in terms of cheese, for instance—fresh cheese, mature cheese. I'm talking about the kind of things that get sold in delicatessens across the UK. So it's a specific area of the market, but it's a big and growing area of the market, and I do feel that we're starting to get left behind in that respect. I don't have the answer as to why that's occurred, but we need to change it.
Could I make one very quick point? It's very exciting to see all these international groups coming in to Cardiff, but it has put a lot of pressure on some of our members, and they're quite concerned about that, understandably. I think, perhaps, Welsh Government—because this has got to get a little bit radical in trying to solve this problem, so with regard to planning, it could be a requirement of planning that, if you are going to set up here, you will have to buy locally. I know it sounds extremely radical and it would be a very difficult thing to do, but I think it needs radical stuff to, perhaps, deal with some of these problems, because we're just going to keep going on and on and not addressing it.
And that's perfectly legitimate, that is, is it? There's not a constraint on putting those conditions via the planning system on a commercial operator?
I'm not absolutely sure.
I speak as a former town planner—many years ago—but I don't think it would be possible within the current legislation.
I think it's much more important to persuade, but I think we need to develop a very strong, persuasive argument about the direction that Wales is taking and how we're determined to make this holistic solution and contribution a major selling point to people coming to the nation.
Okay. Thank you. I think we do need to start making some progress. Joyce Watson.
Good morning, all. I want to look at your views on the Welsh Government's food and tourism action plan 2015-20, and what impact it has had, and whether you're aware that there are any plans for a successor to that.
Okay. The central thesis of that action plan was to raise the profile of Wales. I think it's done that, or is doing that, so it has made progress in that respect. I think the action plan is brief, but it's a very practical thing. So many of these strategies can go on and on and on, so we have to applaud the effectiveness of the document in dealing with a number of action points.
Central to that action point, actually, is the food tourism toolkit, which is a really good user guide, and businesses have fed back to us that they find that very, very useful. So, lots of good practical things I think have been going on are still going on, and need to continue to carry on. But we're not aware of any subsequent action plan. We haven't been involved in any consultation on that.
I think so. I think we've got the momentum going and I think we need to keep it going. Certainly, yes.
This is specifically the food tourism action plan?
Well, no. I concur with what Andrew said, actually. It basically laid down a lot of things that we've been doing, or have been done in Wales for some time—connecting producers with hospitality providers, things like the toolkit advising people how they can integrate Welsh produce onto their menus. I think that's all really useful stuff as far as it goes, but it doesn't address the fundamental underlying issues.
My next question is to you, Simon. In your written evidence, you did say that we don't
'need to spend huge amounts of money'
establishing a brand like True Taste, even though we've just heard other evidence suggesting otherwise, but you said that it will 'come naturally', in any case. Do you want to expand and explain?
Yes. I actually felt that True Taste was a worthwhile exercise in many respects. I think one of the most useful things it did was bring the industry together, and that's something that we lack in terms of small producers and hospitality providers, and True Taste had that impact. What I don't think is that there's much value in spending huge amounts of money on an overarching brand for Wales, because I think a lot of that now will come from the individual businesses. One of the big issues we have here is that these businesses don't really have a voice; there's no lobbying group, with respect, that's specifically to do with Wales and small producers and the part of the industry that we're involved in. So, we perhaps don't have the conversations that we should, so it's great to be here today.
I've got no doubt that using Wales as a brand is very important, and we've started to identify the values that that stands for and that's starting to get through to the public, I know, the research shows that. But at the same time, I think branding should come from the individual businesses, and the use of the flag is very important, but people know how to do this now. I mean, the best people know how to do this, because you're selling to your customer, you have to tell them the story. You've gone to a great deal of trouble to source what you source locally, and so you need to tell them about that. I don't think there's any lack of—especially in the younger part of the industry; I don't know how to put that exactly—but there's a lot of young people out there, and they get this because it's their world.
I guess what I'm saying there is I'm much more interested in seeing ways in which Government can facilitate the establishment and growth of those businesses than I am in Government trying to brand. I think the brand comes out of the actions that we take. If we do visionary things and things that mark us as leaders in Wales, that helps the brand hugely. So, I think those are the things that we should be paying attention to. I just worry a little bit that there's a lot going on in that area and it's quite costly, and we need to make sure the money is going in the right direction.
I just want to broaden the discussion, rather, to widen it to the farm-to-fork strategy. We face this fork in the road, we either go for more industrialisation or we go for a sustainable food policy, and you've obviously laid that out quite clearly in your paper. I'm not attracted by the industrialisation and the cost to the NHS and our water quality, and all the rest of it, so how are we going to develop this sustainable food system?
I think this is where—. Again, the thing that I find most reassuring and attractive in what I've seen written is this idea of an overarching food strategy that touches on all those areas, or includes all those areas. It has multiple benefits, as you've alluded to, in terms of climate change, biodiversity, the health of our nation, education, the self-confidence and self-reliance that it brings—being able to cook, for instance. We should be encouraging those things. The thing is is that other countries have been shilly-shallying around with these things for ages and, as was said, we're a nation of 3 million people, we have this Government, we can be a speedboat not an oil tanker if we choose to, and I feel that we can lead the way on this. So, it does have to be an overarching strategy. It's not going to happen overnight as well.
If you take the price of food, for instance, it's always a contentious one, isn't it, because we don't want to see food prices rising. But it's wrong not to recognise the fact that we spend less of our income on food now than we ever did. And it's about the respect that we have for food, how much enjoyment we take out of it, and it's about restoring that. I think a lot of that can be done through education. We've skipped a couple of generations in terms of cooking skills. There's some good work going on out there, but we should have it on the curriculum. Every child should leave secondary education in Wales with basic cooking skills—the practical skills are more important than anything else. If we could achieve that, what does that do for the brand? We're the first nation to do it. England's been talking about it for ages; Jamie Oliver's been trying to make it happen.
Okay. So it's one of the four pillars of the foundational economy. How are we actually going to achieve that, in terms of, we obviously have the levers of public procurement—Kevin Morgan wrote a little pamphlet about that—but how are we actually going to get the supplies that schools, and hospitals, and other public organisations, need to be able to buy locally?
Well, I think we need to plan for change in that way. I'm not an expert in the area of procurement, but it occurs to me that, if we switch to using more Welsh produce in schools and hospitals—and it could have a significant effect on the specific industries, for instance—then we can underpin change through contracts rather than subsidy. And my view is that that's what's needed in a strategy. I don't know—I've forgotten now the specific details of what's going on in France at the moment, but they've had a radical policy, which came in last year, in relation to the amount of publicly procured food that has to be organic and local.
I just wanted to go to Mr Chapman on this foundational economy point.
I think it's a really interesting point you've raised. The Italian example—. I did some work in promoting some of what Kevin was doing—I think it was in about 2004—on this, so it's 14-odd years that we've been looking at it. And at that point, the barriers were the Official Journal of the European Communities and the tendering system, which was an interesting one to review, because it showed a different drive, I think. In Italy, the tendering procedure was very narrow—it was reduced to freshness, it was reduced to examples of food that could only be provided, in effect, from a certain area, and then was put out to tender, to get that end result. And it was fewer food miles, a very healthy way of doing it. And that was at a time when, in fact, schools in Milan were importing Welsh lamb, because they considered it to be the best product for their children to eat. And this was when I think, generally, in Wales, we were trying to persuade local authorities to use Welsh food, against generic supply at a lower rate.
But looking at the issue, you do have a supply problem. And I think that is something where you would have to look at how clusters of supply could be produced from the farms—co-operative, collaborative farming, which would bring together more provisions throughout the year, and also the supplies that were required. Seasonal food is obviously the most important element. And I think that is something that could be produced, at a certain price. You do have a conflict, where Welsh lamb has done a fantastic job in breaking into export markets, and taking the premium brand around the world, and, as a result of that, it has led to prices going up, generally, which has been of benefit to farmers.
There are cheaper cuts, and the chance to use all parts of the carcass, to be able to produce what you are talking about. But, again, I think perhaps it is something you could look at, in terms of the powers of persuasion. Because I've felt for a long time that the cost is not the single most important issue, and that we are neglecting some other areas, such as local employment opportunities, food miles—a whole range of other costs that would go into the local economy. And if there was a piece of research that was definitive, that was able to demonstrate to local authorities the value of being able to buy locally, so that there was a cost allocation to that, which would go against the simple price that would be in the marketplace, then that would be quite a useful tool for us all to be able to use to say, 'Well, there isn't really a financial argument against doing this procurement.'
Can I just remind people that we've got 20 minutes left and we've got a lot more questions to go through?
Just to support what both of my colleagues have said: intentional localism is a concept based on the principles of the transition movement and we would fully support that. We don't see much of the transition movement stuff in any of the strategy, and I think that movement has been absolutely amazing and I think we can learn a lot from it.
I just want to pick up on the branding and go back to that really. It was interesting to hear Simon say that the brand will emerge from the activity that's happening and, yes, that is true, but surely you recognise that we need something to capture and represent that, as a sort of 'brand Wales' offer, both domestically and internationally.
Yes, I do, and I think that's missing at the moment, because since True Taste went, we haven't been clear about that.
Yes, definitely, I just don't think it needs to be complicated and expensive.
Right, okay. That's a fair point. But the other point that was made to us in an earlier session was that the sector itself should be leading on this, which I'm sure you'd concur with, but also resourcing more of it as well—which I'm not sure you might be as in agreement with, but it would be interesting to hear—in that the sector is pushing it with the Government supporting, as opposed to the Government pushing it with the sector following in tow.
I agree. I think that is the way around that it should be, and it definitely needs that involvement. In terms of funding it, I'm—
Yes, sure, but what does the Government need to do then to facilitate that? Do you have the representative bodies out there that can lead the charge?
That's the issue, actually. We find it really difficult to establish those. We have a local group in Carmarthenshire that we've established ourselves, but people have a lot of commitments; it's difficult to get there. That is definitely letting us down at the moment, because we're having these conversations now and it needs to be an ongoing conversation with the industry. And I get a little bit frustrated because I see how much excitement and talent there is out there at the moment, and then I worry about some of the directions in which we're going. Because it's not easy. It's not easy to compete with the administration ability, for instance, of chains. So, when a new piece of legislation is introduced, for a small business, it's 10 times worse than it is for a large chain. We're seeing that all the time. I'm not special pleading for me, but we're at a disadvantage and we need to turn that around.
The other thing I would just quickly say is that those businesses tend to be very sustainable, once they get through their first two or three years, and there's an entrepreneurial spirit there, but I use the word cautiously, because it's not a kind of money-grabbing idea—it's not some people thinking about, 'Can I buy myself a yacht?' It's people wanting to do things creatively and start their own businesses to do that. And it's interesting, because when young people are in that situation, they generally think, 'I can do this too.' And that's what I think about my place. I don't want to do another one. I want people to leave us and go and start their own.
So, there's a challenge doing that nationally, but, of course, it might be a little bit easier doing that on a regional or a local basis within Wales, and I'm just wondering whether—. Because I know you could have a whole package around Anglesey, although everybody tends to think of sea salt, and Pembrokeshire as well, although people think, 'Potatoes'. Has there been any research in terms of identifying the value that that would bring? I'd imagine there are things happening, but I'm just thinking that it's not happening enough, I'd imagine.
I'd agree, and just going back to your earlier point about how we resource this, again, it's just something that my colleagues have said that any business person would say: the operating costs are absolutely going through the roof and it's just very difficult. The margins are absolutely not there anymore. So, if Welsh Government could do something to help businesses with rates, taxation, that sort of thing, maybe the resource would be there to actually drive that forward a bit more.
I think it's essential. There are two levels here: one is that the industry is massively over-taxed. The 20 per cent VAT element on all of our product, on top of what I think has been analysed by one of my members as 15 different other taxes, plus the business rates argument, which has been absolutely catastrophic in the last 18 months, seriously damaging some businesses to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds extra overnight because of the way that business rates are implemented in our sector, means that there's very little scope—the margins are down—and there is very little scope to be able to do additional to the functional. That means that we're not able to add value, we're not able to move up the league. We certainly haven't got a core resource that we'd be able to call on to do that.
I think it's a matter of scale and resources, and I really do think it's a mindset change that is needed generally about what industries you want to support. And I think, you know, there is a massive argument that we're able to put forward to do with sustainability and to do with the visitor to every single part of Wales, every constituency in Wales, as an industry, that is impossible to deny. And it's what you put behind that, you know? We've seen Scotland put a lot of money into tourism and hospitality in recent years. We've seen small areas of England, if you like—big areas of England like Yorkshire, but small areas compared to national status—putting more money in in one year than we've been able to do here in Wales to tourism and hospitality directly. And we've seen other industries have pockets of cash go into them that are not as important in terms of employment as we are, while we are paying a lot of money directly into Government purses in order to be able to sort of look at that reallocation back through the formula.
So, I think that, if you were to look at a very big idea, which was that you have some—. The brand is not one of my specialities, but I do know that, for instance, HCC is an exemplar organisation in terms of its delivery over the last sort of 15 years. It has the premium that was described by a former Minister as a sort of emblematic brand to take around the world. You have an opportunity there to piggyback with other great Welsh food offers. You have the chance to use that in terms of exploring the landscape, because, obviously, you've got an awful lot of Welsh lamb in an awful lot of places in Wales, and it identifies with a fantastically clean environment to produce premium food in every area. This is not an urban or a high-economy area. And we have the chance to show that. We also have the chance to use the language. We have the chance to be able to use the heritage, because this is an eternal product.
So, there are ways where we can use that and give more, if you like, into areas where there are professionals already, and I think it needs to be led by that sort of expertise. UKHospitality would be very happy to participate. I'm sure others would here. And we'd need the expertise of people like HCC and others to do that. And if they were to lead, then you might well be able to find more resources. But I think you need substantially more resources to do this and to put it behind a global effort to show Wales as a completely different nation to any other.
Which is where the story of the jams and the marmalade came in. Foxhill Farm, this week, won a gold medal. Forty-two countries around the world, and Helen Lloyd went up to the Lake district to win the gold medal for the best marmalade. Isn't that a fantastic story? And it’s all about storytelling, and, you know—
Very quickly on that, though, it’s very important to realise that those businesses are always likely—and they’re great businesses, but they’re always likely to be small businesses, because of the nature of what they do. And that is something to be celebrated. And lots and lots of those are great at the micro level, but we also have to look at the macro level, which is to say that you will get that, but also you get fantastic food across Wales, and Welsh lamb is, for instance, one of those products.
I'd be interested in your views on the idea of having UK geographical indication schemes post Brexit.
Can I jump in on that one? There was an event, the first event where we've unified accommodation with food and drink and PGI brands, last week in Westminster, to highlight the uniqueness of what we have here, and the participants in that were Denbigh plums—besides Welsh lamb and beef—Pembrokeshire vegetables, Teifi cheese, Anglesey sea salt. I took a small brewery, who is one of our members, from Swansea there. Protected geographical indication has been absolutely vital to the Welsh lamb growth story, and I know that the chief executive of HCC was here and told you all about that, so you don't need to know more. But, more importantly, possibly, was the research that had been done by HCC into the economic impact of that. I think that's very interesting, the way it adds value. There's such a feel-good story around those products, the identification that they come from somewhere. I think it's really good for us as a nation to have that, where you know that this is from Wales and we can go closer because of traceability and the auditing process, which is now moving into a digital domain name system, which is quite incredible really and another feather in the cap.
From what I've seen in the press of the alternatives that are coming out, we do have a difficulty over whether it's British or Welsh, which is not really of any—. It wouldn't certainly help, I don't think, say the Welsh lamb brand, for instance, or anything else that we're looking at, because you're selling the story of the landscape. You're selling the story of the origination of where that food is coming from. So, if it was to be a PGI that had a UK feel about it, I think we'd be losing a trick if that was the case. I don't know if that's how it will work out. But I know that there is a financial benefit, I know that there is a tourism benefit to it, because we are selling clean land, we are selling an environment that is good to visit. I'd like to see whatever help could be given to an equivalent perpetuation of that.
We want to see the Welsh dragon, not the union jack. Just very quickly, we support the protection of the status of iconic Welsh foodstuffs.
Yes, I agree with all of that.
Okay, great. Simon, I think your view is that it's better to focus more on the home market in Wales rather than promoting Welsh food and drink produce abroad. Obviously, we can do both, but in terms of the focus and the way things have developed up to now, is it your view that it needs to be steered more towards the home market?
I think, again, that would be part of an overarching food strategy, to try and develop home demand within Wales for Welsh produce. Some of that is to do with identification. We think we've seen some examples of that recently. That can in itself serve a purpose. But also, if people are familiar with the things that we produce in Wales from an early age, are used to eating them, cooking them, know how to cook them, this changes everything. So, it's not just about branding and marketing. There are other ways of penetrating the Welsh market and seeing more Welsh food on Welsh tables.
Changing the culture.
Yes, changing culture. We need to look at that in the round, for sure. I mentioned food prices earlier. It's also about showing due respect for food and getting some of that back into our culture. It should be an occasion. Sometimes I forget how old I am, but when I was at school in Cardiff we had school lunches that had to be served properly, you had to sit down and it was an occasion. I think in those days we even said grace at the beginning. We've lost that completely. If you go into schools now you just don't see any of that, even with the changes that have been made in terms of the nutritional value, allegedly, of food that's allowed to into the schools. It's no event. People are getting pasta, eating it and taking it out on the playground, with subsequent litter everywhere, wanting to go off and play rugby or football just like I did as a kid, but I had to go through—you had to have lunch first. I think we need to get some of that back. It may sound like we're trying to stem the tide. I actually think the reverse: this is where the tide will go eventually. We'll either be ahead of it or we'll be behind it.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Allaf i ddiolch yn y lle cyntaf am ansawdd y papurau bendigedig dŷch chi wedi cyflwyno y bore yma? Fel y tystion blaenorol, ac eraill sydd i ddod, mae safon y dystiolaeth ysgrifenedig dŷn ni wedi derbyn bore yma wedi bod yn fendigedig. Felly, diolch yn fawr iawn i chi ymlaen llaw am hynny. Tra bo fi wrthi, efallai y byddai'n well i mi ddatgan rhyw fath o fuddiant am fy mod i a'm teulu yn gwsmeriaid rheolaidd yn Wright's Emporium yn Llanarthne, ac mae pawb yn ffans mawr o'r cynnyrch yn fanna. Felly, mae'n rhaid i mi ddatgan rhyw fath o fuddiant, sbo. Ac wedyn roeddwn i eisiau troi i beth dwi wedi bod arno fo drwy'r bore, gan fy mod i hefyd, fel gwnes i grybwyll yn flaenorol, yn feddyg teulu yn Mhenclawdd, sydd yn enwog yn lleol, ac weithiau yn bellach i ffwrdd, am ei gynnych lleol o gocos a bara lawr ac ati, a jest troi'r drafodaeth am ychydig funudau, efallai, i gynnyrch bwyd môr lleol Cymreig, ac ydych chi'n credu bod digon yn cael ei wneud o hwnna?
Thank you, Chair. May I thank you in the first place for the quality of the excellent papers you've submitted this morning? Like those of the previous witnesses, and the others who are to come before us, the standard of the written evidence that we've received has been great. So, thank you very much beforehand for that. While I'm at it, perhaps I should declare some sort of interest as my family and I are regular customers at Wright's Emporium in Llanarthne, and everybody is a great fan of the produce there. So, I have to declare some sort of interest, I suppose. And then I wanted to turn to what I've been discussing all morning, as I'm also, as I mentioned earlier, a family GP in Penclawdd, which is well known for its local produce of cockles and laverbread, and just to turn the discussion for a while, perhaps, to seafood, and Welsh local seafood, and do you think enough is being done regarding that?
This has been an issue for so long, hasn't it, and it's so distressing because we catch enough shellfish off the Welsh coast, I think I'm right in saying—certainly at one point I was right in saying—to supply the UK market three times over.
Ninety-seven per cent is exported.
Ninety-seven per cent is exported, yes. So, it is another one of those chicken-and-egg situations. That's happened for specific reasons, not least because we took decisions not to engage with that on, I suppose, a business level, really, many, many years ago. So, it's actually quite difficult to get Welsh fish into your restaurant, and shellfish in particular. We're very lucky at the moment—we have some excellent suppliers from a couple of day boats that go out of Patch, in Cardigan bay—Len and Mandy Walters; quite incredible. But that's probably the most consistent supply of Welsh seafood I've had in 30 years in the restaurant trade in Wales. It's very, very difficult, even for those establishments that are prepared to spend significantly more on what they purchase.
I know that a lot of work's gone into that in the past. Again, it's a chicken-and-egg situation—we need to have more hospitality providers serving the very stuff that's coming into the ports around them. We've still got issues, massive issues, with the supply chain there. A lovely big fish market somewhere on the west coast would help, possibly. Maybe that's something that we could look at strategically. It's quite incredible, because people don't know us for that, do they? They don't know us for lobster, crab and shrimp—not as much as they could do, anyway—and we have some of the best. We really do. So, we need to find ways of changing that situation.
I think it's changing culture, which is really very difficult. There are some cluster groups around the seafood cluster group. I know many WTA members go to that and they find that very helpful. But I think there is an issue of price sensitivity with regard to premium foods. Talking to a local fisherman in Pembrokeshire, the cost, actually, to take lobster—most businesses work on three times gross plus VAT—it becomes prohibitively expensive to actually go onto the plate. So, it's a bit of a double whammy, really, with the change of culture and the cost element, and so it's difficult.
Just quickly, because I'm not an expert on seafood—[Inaudible.] It just made me think, when you were speaking—we we're talking earlier about branding and awareness of landscape and culture, and we've got so many mussels, and yet it seems to me that moules frites is the dish that's Belgian, and we have wonderful seafood, and yet fruits de mer is the Brittany and Normandy speciality. I think this is part of what I was saying earlier, I would guess, it's the over-embracing—. We need to invest hugely in this concept of food and get the prices into a position where we're able to do that. And I think that, probably, price sensitivity is huge problem for us. Just a very quick example. I've got friends in Winchester. We were down there two weeks ago. We had a—I went to a lovely country pub—beef sirloin roast dinner, £22.95. My local in pub in the Vale of Glamorgan—great pub—not-sirloin beef dinner, £9.95. It's the sensitivity of the economy around that. And we've got to look at how we could bring everything up. It's not going to be easy, but it's the solution.
The seafood festivals have been very effective—[Inaudible.] Yes, that would be very good.
Just to say that there are—[Inaudible.]—because I'm going to Cardigan bay seafood banquet, where the food will all be local, and it's linking with the college to teach the skills to serve the food, on Friday, and I'm quite looking forward to that. And also I just want to bring in something that I've observed when I've travelled around. When we give planning permission for new units to sell whatever it is they're going to sell, I've come across developing countries leaving an empty space for local produce, and it's being paid for, probably, by premium on the not-so-local, I guess. But the opportunities are there for local producers, whatever it is, and the provenance of those local products is evident everywhere. I don't know what your thoughts are on that, although I can guess, but, you know, we really—. I live in Pembrokeshire, and I represent just about all the coast of Wales. Do you think that would be a useful recommendation?
I do. We need to provide routes to market. Premises are really important, very difficult to arrange, expensive in a lot of cases, but, if we can bring the produce that we have together in one place, I think it's very attractive to people. There are lots of examples of this elsewhere in Europe, particularly in North America, where you have retail premises that are based on, largely, local produce, and dedicated to that, and they act as supermarkets in their own right. It would be good to look at some of those examples, I think, and see how we can try and replicate that. And it is a chicken-and-egg situation again, because you build that, it works, you make it work, and then more people are encouraged to start growing and producing and bringing their stuff. So, there's real mileage in that idea, in my view, probably beyond—. Farmers markets are very important, and we should look at it in that context too, but permanent locations where people can come on any day of the week and buy local—that would be very good.
I absolutely agree. It supports the intentional localism concept, which—. You're going to Cardigan on Friday; they had a wonderful restaurant there called The 25 Mile, which you probably know about, where all the food produce had to be from within 25 miles of the restaurant, and that sort of idea is to be commended.
Yes, I know; this could potentially be a 20-minute answer. I'm just wondering what the implications of Brexit are on the availability of labour, really, within the hospitality and tourism sector. Clearly, I'd imagine it's a concern, but I want to hear it from yourselves.
It's not quite as difficult an answer—
And I'll tell you why. It's because, as an industry, we've taken a lead. I said that I would do some work on this. A KPMG report was commissioned by the old BHA, the British Hospitality Association, three years ago. It indicated, across the UK, that we'd have a severe problem with migrant labour shortages. It also indicated a very interesting second thing, which was about the churn that we have in our industry, and the churn that was identified is largely because we train young people in soft and social skills and then they go on to take jobs in other areas and move. So, that is a valuable element of what we do. But there was a shortage, and so I spent the last six or seven months looking at what we could do.
We have major problems with perceptions of what the industry is. That's partly our own fault in the way that we haven't represented the opportunities. It's partly because, I think, most of the people who are customers actually go in and see a very low level, if you like, of what the operation is about. They just see the reception desk and the service areas, but they don't understand that behind the scenes we have jobs in sport, leisure, human resources, accountancy—the whole works—management. We have a very fast career progression within the hospitality industry, where, if you go in, often with little formal qualifications but you have the aptitude and the resilience and the determination, you will very quickly move up to lead at 22, 23—management and further on, if you want to do that. You also have the opportunity to set your own business up. It provides all sorts of springboards into that work. However, we've not got that across. So, we've taken some positive steps in terms of perception-raising. We're working with Government on that where we can, and that's to do with things like a webinar system, which we've introduced with Careers Wales, where those webinars are beamed into schools and schools are directly asking questions back of key employers. And so we've bypassed the prejudice that exists within the old sort of careers, teachers system—the teaching system and the parents' position—and we're trying to say these opportunities exist. So, that's something we've taken on, and we're looking to see if we can raise further perceptions as well. We're looking to see if we can get in earlier, to 7 and 8-year-olds, and show them the industry and show them how they can do that work.
So we're taking on some things, but we're also—I think we've been a bit slow in terms of a unified skills agenda. So, we just had a summit—Andrew was there—of people involved, including HE, FE, Careers Wales and all those that I could identify, and we had a presentation from the food and drink division there about their skills plan, which involved a body—well, 'body' is too fine a word for it, really, but a core board of industry people that would take the lead about needs, and then work directly with Government about how that could be addressed. I think the key thing is that the industry must have control of this process, but it needs to have that support of resource behind it that exists, and that's the recommendation that we're taking forward. That will—a subsidiary report I'll be finalising soon and that will go into what we're intending to do on our own, but also what we would like to see happen with the industry.
But crucial to all of this is an overarching support that the Welsh Government needs to input into the Westminster position, and that is that, while all of that will take some time, we've still got an immediate issue to address in terms of needs and skills, and that is a significant problem. For instance, in the past—I'm not sure what the current position is, but certainly within the last 12 months Llandudno as a town was about 50 per cent migrant worker in our industry. So, there's an awful lot of shortfall. Some are 5 per cent, some are 80 per cent, depending where they are and how it works. Of course, with latest employment figures showing full employment, we're in a pretty tricky position about attracting people into the industry in the short term.
Alongside that, the Migration Advisory Committee, which I gave evidence to two weeks ago on its visit here, its recommendation of a broad level of £30,000 as a threshold for future migrant work, which matches the one for non-EU—if that is to be implemented within a very short term, we're going to have a very big shortage here immediately. In Wales, of course, we'll suffer more because we're in different economic circumstances to, say, central London, where that figure is obviously the same.
So, what we could do with is to look at an adequate transitional procedure—certainly for key parts of the industry, like chefing, where there is a shortage. If we were to have support in that—I think we're looking at the national living wage increasing in 2020 to 60 per cent of median earnings—then we will be driving up where we can within these businesses with a big price sensitivity and a very small margin coming in the opportunity to be able to pay as much as possible to attract people. But that is again a long process, and we could really do with transitional support in the meantime to be able to make that work. But we are taking it on, we are looking at driving it ourselves, and we are hoping to find a solution in five and 10 years that will address the problem, but it's the immediate shortfall that's the problem.
Thank you. I don't want to put any pressure on you, but we're now eight minutes over time.
Can I say something?
Yes, please, but, if you can both do it in a minute, I'd be very grateful.
Okay, right. Staff shortages are already the key issue for businesses, and the forecast of 330,000 EU nationals thinking of leaving by 2020 just has created absolute alarm throughout the tourism industry, as we all know. Support the £30,000 threshold—if you apply that £30,000 threshold with current people working in the sector, that would cover 75 per cent of staff in the UK tourism and hospitality industry. That shows the magnitude of the problem, really. So, I absolutely support everything that David says, and I could say more, but I'm not going to, Chair.
Yes, it's clearly a big problem, for some more than others, but one thing that we need to make sure of is that anything we do in respect of the skills is tailored to where the industry's going and to the modern market. I think in the past, and it's still the case, some of the provision, particularly in catering—the curriculums are outdated. The kind of people that we need are people who know about food, have a good knowledge, understand Welsh agriculture—those things are more important than anything else and we haven't really been doing that. As David said, we need to indicate to young people what their prospects are within the industry and how much fun it can be.
Okay. Can I thank you all for coming along today? I thank you for your responses, which I found very informative and I'm sure my colleagues did as well. Thank you very much. You'll be sent a transcript to check for accuracy, and what I always tell people to do is check, because if you move your head away while you're talking, sometimes the odd word gets missed. Okay, thank you very much.
Can we try and meet back here at half past?
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:25 ac 11:31.
The meeting adjourned between 11:25 and 11:31.
Yes. I'm Professor Terry Marsden.
Great. If I can start, what was the Welsh Government's response to your recommendations on the 'Food Policy as Public Policy' report?
Well, unfortunately, there wasn't any response, to be quite honest. We had an interim meeting on a draft, which they commented on, and then we finished the paper, and there was never any response at all to that. I assume it was read, but I didn't have—. Perhaps I should've followed it up a little bit more closely. I assumed it had gone into the bowels of the Welsh Government and been looked at. And hence, that's one of the reasons I've suggested dusting it off for this inquiry, because it is three years ago, but I think a lot of it still stands and I think that the issues now are more urgent than they were three years ago, in many respects.
I wonder to what extent you've been involved in the Welsh Government's new food and drink strategy, and what you think of the process that's been involved, and, particularly, is it the right direction of travel for the food processing sector?
Well, again, I confess that I've not been that directly involved. I had an informal meeting with one of the officials who was in charge of the proposal—that was back in August 2018—asking me what I thought the parameters of the strategy should be. And after that, I've not heard anything. I've not heard anything, or I can't find out, really, where that has actually got to. I've got some—as we can come on to—suggestions and proposals, pragmatically and practically, about how that ought to be developed. My worry is that it will continue to be a rather narrow and exclusive process.
And for food processing particularly, that would be your view, would it?
Yes. I mean, I think there are some new sea change issues here. One is that the action plan and the resourcing for various initiatives that have been developed there, many of them have come out of European regional development funding or rural development plan funding, which are not going to be there in the future. So, I think there are some questions about not only levels of investment or sources of investment for the food processing sector. I was fortunate enough just to hear some of the evidence earlier, with which I agree. I think there is a need to put a lot more flesh on the bones of what is mentioned in the economic strategy, where food is seen as a foundational part of the economy. Well, what does that mean? I think we need to develop, as I said in the Public Policy Institute for Wales report, a distributed regional system of hubs for food processing and food outlets, and we need to look at that strategically across Wales. As we know, there are the economic processes of concentration, particularly in the south, but more generally there's the decline of market towns, there's the death of the high street going on. So, there are all sorts of issues about the declining and hollowing out of food infrastructures, and I think we should be much more proactive about developing a new generation of food processing, which is not just a traditional—it includes a sort of traditional, industrial model, if you like, of food, but it also involves new types of artisanal production, and fish were mentioned earlier, and we build some infrastructure from which, then, we can create new businesses in Wales on food processing and adding value. Adding value is a critical dimension.
So, I think it's all to play for. It will need investment. We're not sure where that investment will come from. But I hope that the new strategy or revised strategy would take a more literally strategic approach to that, all-Wales, and think about how this could be a leading economic sector for Wales in the future.
Looking at the foundational economy and the role of food, clearly there's a massive deficit in horticulture—you know, we just don't have any, really. With Brexit, that could be absolutely catastrophic in the short term. Earlier witnesses were talking about the need to focus on freshness in our procurement policies as a way of ensuring that we get—reducing the food miles and ensuring we get local businesses involved. But how do we build the structures to enable horticulture to deliver for the schools and hospitals and other parts of the foundational economy?
You will have seen that, in the report three years ago, we put a lot of emphasis on expanding horticulture and developing a horticulture working group and a partnership board on these different particular key sectors. That, again, I think has become much more important over the last few years. If you haven't seen it, you should refer to the EAT-Lancet Commission report that came out about a month ago, which is an international report on climate change, planetary health and food and diet, which links these things together, and it's had quite a big impact on people generally, but on stakeholders about—what I think we're into here is building transformative capacities. It's not just a matter of bolting together a few initiatives. We need in Wales to develop the capacity to transform the system of food in Wales, both in terms of diet, health and production and supply. I think there's a concerted effort needed for the growth of horticulture in Wales and finding ways in which we can incentivise that process from production through to food hubs, through to diversifying outlets in our towns and cities and schemes such that it can go to market. You've seen there's a growth developing, particularly amongst the young, on veganism, vegetarianism. The meat industry is coming under a lot of multiplex pressure from climate change, from animal welfare and so on, and I think, environmentally, it is becoming clear that we need to develop, and health-wise, a much more expansive horticultural sector, which we had, historically—it got hollowed out by supermarkets and centralised systems. We've got some great examples, of course, but as far as I'm aware, there is land available—capability. There is capability in Wales to produce a lot more.
There's lots of new technology that would assist in the development of horticulture, and that doesn't seem to be taking off in the way that it has in one or two other countries.
Yes, that's right. I think we need this as a major innovation sector. I think we need to think about horticulture in a very innovative sort of way, and think about centres of innovation. We funded the organic centre of Wales in Aberystwyth for a while, but we need centres of innovation to develop this, whether the botanic gardens is one place for that, so that we have demonstration places that can show people what can happen and how it can work—demonstration farms, or whatever—so that that can spread the diffusion of these sorts of idea.
This is a particular example of where I think we need to put a lot of effort, and I think it's also true to say that it's not horticulture/or. It could be part of a mixed farming system. There's a great case down in the Vale, Slade Farm Organics, I don't know whether you know it—box scheme.
Yes, and they've developed a horticultural arm to what they're doing as well. So, it's part of a much more multifunctional farming system that I think we need to be creating in Wales, really.
You mentioned more artisan processing, for example, earlier on and that's great—we need more of that; I'd always support that. But given the nature of some of the sectors in Wales, we need the high-throughput, larger, more industrial-sized processing as well. But what we're seeing, of course, for example, in terms of red meat, is the consolidation of large processing plants near to the large centres of population in England, so I'm just wondering what your thoughts are about what impact that's having on the sector in Wales. And also, we had evidence—was it last week or the week before?—from Puffin Produce telling us that there's a value gap as well, because they can't source the capital they need to build a large processing facility, because, although it might cost them £3 million, the banks say, 'It has a resale value of £1 million, so we can only give you so much.' So, there are some very practical issues there—that the sector want to move in a certain direction, but the whole system is militating against that.
You put your finger on a very important point. We have to be realistic that we've got this continuous process of economies of scale going on in the main conventional sectors—red meat and, particularly, dairy. The story has been that we've lost capacity and are continuing to lose capacities in Wales. Again, my view on this, quite a radical one, is that I think we need to work ways of rebuilding infrastructure in Wales. I understand the logic of concentration, but I think there are other logics. We're going to be entering a period when more and more people are actually going to want localised or re-localised foods. They're not going to want the food miles attached to these distant centres. I think that business model is up for considerable questioning in the future. I know a lot of farmers are locked into it at the moment, and the question is: how can they make a transition to more distributed systems? There are some very good examples in Carmarthenshire of how this is working on quality production, where they've competed and produced quality-based beef and sold it partly in supermarkets, but in other ways.
So, I think the story is is that we've talked about local foods for a long time, but I think now the process of re-localising is something we need to build into the strategy. So, we need explicitly to build capacity. This is important for rural development as well as food, actually—it's linking rural development, food and health. Therefore, part of the strategy ought to be to stimulate infrastructures in Wales.
Let's face it, we've got a real problem in another round of deindustrialisation more generally going on, the outcome of which scares me, in Wales at the moment, and into the future. Part of the economic strategy needs to be putting back the foundations of key sectors—transport, food and so on—and finding ways of trying to do that. I think the Scots are addressing that issue, to a certain degree, in their good food nation policy.
The issue of finance is a critical one. I don't know where we are with the development bank, or ways in which we could find ways of creating credit systems in Wales to stimulate this sort of thing—I think that's something we should look at. Financing and credit is really important there. But I do believe that the trend that we're on—and we see it in many parts of Europe—is actually away from the concentration of processing facilities in one or two nodes, and towards a more distributed system.
I wonder if you have any thoughts on the sectors that are most likely to be affected in terms of skills shortages, and the impact that that might have post Brexit, particularly on the labour market.
This is another—. What we're seeing is the throwing up of questions on the whole factors of production of food, if you like, as a result of Brexit, and labour and capital, and labour is clearly one of them. The abattoir sector is strongly populated by European labour; the veterinary profession is another one. And, as you heard, the hospitality sector is also critical. If that's the reality, then, again, the skills strategy that has been identified here is particularly relevant. Another element of the overall food strategy, I think, is the supply side, as well as the demand side, if you like—that is to say, training people in the food industry. I think the higher education and further education sectors need to be brought on board on this in Wales, and could do a lot more in this regard. I think young people are more attracted—could be, potentially, more attracted—to the food sector. So, we've got to try and make this an opportunity—whatever the consequences are of labour. I expect labour costs are going to go up as well, as part of this process. And it raises the question: is there an opportunity to turn the food processing system, particularly, into a higher income, rather than a low-income sector?
And that's all very well and good for the long term, but we're going to be facing the short term fairly soon. So, there are skill-specific or temporary migrant permits schemes that maybe we could adopt, like the one in Northern Ireland, where they're considering having 1,500 people, giving them work permits, for non-European-Economic-Area citizens to work. Do you think that we in Wales need to be looking at that, following on from what you've just said?
I'm not sure what the devolved responsibilities of Wales are vis-à-vis the UK on this issue. Obviously, there's this stalled process of a seasonal workers scheme being concocted. I think that's important. I think you're right—there's a set of urgent actions that need to be taken as part of whatever the transition process is going to be over the next few years. So that's urgent in that regard. And I think some sort of dispensation for allowing free movement of labour will still be needed in that regard.
There's also been a suggestion that maybe automation might be a solution to some of this, and I wonder what your thoughts are on that, and whether, if we move into a fully automated system—does that necessarily mean that we move into also larger scale farming at the same time? Going back to something that you said earlier on, we need to look at food in terms of its effects, positively, on the environment. So, just some thoughts on that.
I think the scenario—and I think the National Farmers Union's recent document on this gives, somewhat, a rather disproportionate emphasis on the role of automation and technology as to resolve the problems of labour in UK agriculture, actually. I'm of the belief that we could actually increase the labour demand for farming. If you go down a more agri-ecological route, one way or another—bring back mixed farming systems, which—. All of the evidence is suggesting that's what we need to do for food-quality purposes, for welfare purposes and for environmental reasons, then, actually, you have to go against that intensification scale model and apply your technologies in a different sort of way. You still have those technologies, but use them in a different sort of way.
So, I think there's a real question here for Wales—to what extent it needs to create a clear green water, if you like, from that scenario, which is being established in post-Brexit discussions, particularly in lowland England and particularly associated with the horticultural sector in eastern England. I think we need to distinguish ourselves from that. We're a different topography, very different topography, and we shouldn't race in a game that we can't win, and develop our unique brand. So, we need to develop a food and agriculture policy that is embracing technology and automation where it's useful, but doing it in a way that is creating a much more multifunctional, ecological farming system in Wales, not just simply one that is based on increasing output.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Roeddwn i'n mynd i ddechrau drwy eich llongyfarch chi a dweud y gwir—rŷch chi wedi cyflwyno cwpl o bapurau i ni fel pwyllgor sydd yn fendigedig, mae'n rhaid i fi ddweud. Roedd hi'n bleser darllen y papurau rydych chi wedi'u cyflwyno gerbron, yn enwedig yr un ar lywodraethiant amharedig, os dyna'r cyfieithiad o 'disruptive governance'—mi wnes i fwynhau hwnna yn fawr iawn. Felly, llongyfarchiadau, bendigedig. Yn deillio o hynny, yn rhan amser y dyddiau yma, rwyf i'n feddyg teulu ym Mhenclawdd, ac wrth gwrs, ym Mhenclawdd, gogledd Gŵyr yn y fanna, ein diwydiant lleol ni ydy bwyd môr, yn cynhyrchu cocos mewn modd traddodiadol. Teuluoedd traddodiadol sydd wedi bod yn cynaeafu yn yr un un darn o'r tywod ers cenedlaethau, yn cynhyrchu cocos ac, wrth gwrs, bara lawr. Os yna unrhyw ystyriaethau ynglŷn â brandio a phrosesu bwyd môr rŷch chi eisiau dod at y bwrdd?
Thank you, Chair. I wanted to congratulate you—you've presented some papers to us as a committee that are excellent, I have to say. It was a pleasure to read the papers that you've presented, particularly the one on disruptive governance—I particularly enjoyed that. So, congratulations, it was wonderful. Stemming from that, part time, I am a GP in Penclawdd, and, of course, in Penclawdd in the north of Gower, our local industry is seafood, and the production of cockles in a traditional way by families who have been harvesting in the same areas and producing cockles and laverbread. Are there any considerations in terms of promoting seafood that you want to bring to the table?
Yes, absolutely, there are, and I've been thinking quite a lot about this. Let me just go back a little bit and say, in our original report three years ago, one of key points we were making was that we need to reorganise the nature of food governance in Wales. And again, I think the farming the nation report in Scotland has moved ahead of us in this regard. I think we need to establish a partnership approach, semi-independently from the Welsh Government, something like that which we did have relating the partnership board back in 2010 when we put together the original strategy. The advantage of that is that it brings all people to the table, it's much more inclusive, it's not just a talking shop. But as part of that, at a lower level, what we suggested in the report, and I'm still wedded to this view, is that you have then specific targeted working groups—horticulture may be one—but seafood is clearly another one here where we look at how we regenerate and develop the seafood industry in Wales. So, a big emphasis here is on a complete regeneration of the sector. What does it need? What are its infrastructural needs? How do we promote it? What brand do we need to use? How do we compete with the Brittany cases or other successful countries? So, this is a major area of potential, I think. Given what we've just been saying about the changing diets from meat, then fish becomes much more significant. So, this is another area of great development and potential here. But I think it needs—. It doesn't just need a sort of fragmented approach; it needs a group of stakeholders—the business sector, particularly the private sector—possibly leading this, and having that part of the all-Wales organisational structure for developing and implementing food actions. So, this is something I think we could really major on.
Diolch yn fawr. Jest i holi eich barn chi ar y strategaeth sgiliau a gyhoeddwyd y llynedd gan Lywodraeth Cymru a Bwrdd Diwydiant Bwyd a Diod Cymru—hynny yw, y strategaeth yna o weddnewid sgiliau yn y diwydiant bwyd a diod yng Nghymru—beth ydy eich barn chi ynglŷn â'r strategaeth sgiliau yna a gyhoeddwyd y llynedd gan Lywodraeth Cymru a Bwrdd Diwydiant Bwyd a Diod Cymru, ar y cyd, felly?
Thank you very much. I just want to ask for your view on the skills strategy that was published last year by the Welsh Government and the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board—that's the transforming skills in the Welsh food and drink industry strategy. What's your opinion about that skills strategy that was published last year by the Welsh Government and the industry board jointly?
Yes, I've looked at it. I think it's got some very well meaning objectives and actions. The question is how quickly—. Does it pass the implementation test? That's the trouble with a lot of these strategies that we've had, including 'Food for Wales, Food from Wales' in 2010. We've got a problem. We're creating strategies; how are we then implementing them and what level of urgency are we putting on this? The other problem is it's not just a matter of fragmentation or lack of bringing these things together or urgency; it's the fact that, in my experience in the last 10, 15, 20 years in Wales, we've created strategies and then we've blown hot and cold on them. One minute we've been enthusiastic about it and then it's dropped off the agenda. And my point about putting food policy as public policy is centralising it so that it cannot be put off the agenda. It's too important. If you think about it, it's a fundamental aspect of future generations, so we need a food strategy that is right at the heart of delivering the seven principles of the future generations Act, and therefore Ministers should be called to account on that in that regard. So, this isn't a minor sectoral issue, which one minute you can be enthusiastic about, depending on who the Minister is, and then it goes off the agenda. It needs to be critical, for the young people of this country and attracting people to the country, and careers in the country in this sector. Again, I think the education sector has got a lot to—. That's another task group that the strategy should look at.
There are a lot of important issues in your governance paper. Can I just sidestep it for a moment and say what do you think we could learn from the Scottish good food nation policy? Are they ahead of us, or should we be jumping ahead of them?
Yes. I'm not sure how much funding they're putting into it, but certainly the approach that they've adopted since 2014 and the actions—. I looked at their recent progress report, and what they've clearly done is created a set of principles and a vision, which has linked questions of food, diet and health and consumer issues, and addressed that square on, basically, with the supply side as well. So, I think that's a—
Yes. I mean, I think that embracing the question of—. I mean, we've got problems; we've got problems with obesity and poor diet, in the young, again, and the Scottish initiative is really focusing on a big problem that they have there, and we have too. So, everything I've been saying on the production side this morning is also predicated on the win-win with improving diets in schools or in households, hospitals and so on. You've already dealt a lot with procurement issues, but I think it's broader than that. We've got targets on obesity and things like that, but this is—. The Welsh food sector and the strategy need to be focused very much on the change in the nature of food consumption. Again, it's a part of culture, I suppose. So, I think the Scottish model is important to look at, and they are considering legislative changes, as I understand it, and a concerted effort in that regard.
Well, in a way, we don't need that because we've got the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
But I think that one of the frustrations that I have, which you mention in your paper, is that we've got these excellent LEADER programmes, obviously very small-scale in rural ares—mainly rural areas, but not exclusively—but we never somehow think, 'Oh, they were successful there, therefore they'll probably be successful in another, similar type community.'
That's correct. In the second paper that you were circulated with, which is still in development, I've wrestled with this issue about—. Clearly, food is a critical aspect here, but it has to be porous to developing policies that are linked to enhancing and regenerating rural development on the one hand and changing diet and environmental issues on the other. So, that's why I think calling it 'a sector' is not really what we're talking about here. It's much better to think about mapping food on to the future generations parameters and seeing how the food strategy can deliver on the full range of those: social inclusion—
So, seeing it as part of the foundational economy—that is the way forward.
Yes, and as a foundational part of delivering on future generations. The danger is, particularly with Brexit—and I see this in DEFRA and in Whitehall at the moment—the re-fragmentation of issues in this field. And that was one of my issues in the paper on disruptive governance—that basically, there are interests that want to disrupt and that want to separate things out. So, you have environment over here, you have a divide-and-rule strategy, and you have farmers over there and you have foodies over here. The strategy has been, in some cases in DEFRA at the moment, to appease a particular narrow environmental approach through the provision of public goods. But no food policy—food policy is out of that debate.
Well, we know the Americans want us to eat cheap, adulterated food, and whether the UK Government is going to resist that in any way is—
We've done some scenario analyses, before Brexit happened, with Welsh officials here, and I have to say that one of the scenarios that I thought was a bit cloud-cuckoo-land then is now becoming more of a reality and that is the Americanisation of the UK food system. If we do not develop the institutional infrastructure in Wales to do this, the macropolicital and international circumstances to which we are going to be exposed in the UK, I'm afraid, will lead to that sort of Americanisation and race-to-the-bottom approach. I'm very wary of that happening and I think it is a real danger, and I think Wales, in its articulation with the UK Government and Westminster, need to be putting these arguments very strongly. But we need to build up resilience against that race-to-the-bottom Americanisation of food and diet, which we see. You can see what the consequences of that might be.
So, that is a real threat.
I just think that the final note about not letting America dictate to us what we ought to eat and how we ought to eat it and how they ought to produce it is a real problem. If you look at and tie the obesity to it, it's their fast food and their highly processed food, where all sorts of things are hidden in it, like fat, water and sugar, for example, and lots of salt, which has given them a problem and, yes, it did seem outlandish not so long ago. It's not so outlandish anymore. So, in terms of building the resilience, we have to start doing that right now, because there is no doubt that the UK Government are trying to do deals with them as we speak, simply because of the situation we find ourselves in. So, what can we do immediately—that is, us as politicians and, more widely, the public—to really get this home to people?
I think one of the things is to immediately and urgently progress the Welsh food strategy under the auspices of the—. Fortunately, we’ve got the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, and we should use those as a way of delivering and developing policies through the Assembly and Welsh Government to create much more resilience, from day one, in this changing context, and threatening context as well, I think. Because I think food is likely to be the cinderella. The interesting thing about the Brexit process is that food wasn’t necessarily the thing that was people’s first thinking about Brexit. But now, as it has emerged, it’s a critical thing that’s being caught in the collateral damage of new trade disruptions that are going to be occurring. And so, we have to build a more self-sufficient—I have to say that; I’m not being protectionist, necessarily—we have to build a more self-sufficient, less dependent food system in the British isles.
Is the public procurement system going to be sufficient? In combination with the well-being of future generations Act, if we can focus our public procurement on ensuring that freshness, therefore localness—
That’s a very strong element of it, and I think there are opportunities to develop more proaction in green procurement in Wales that could now occur. The push is going to come to shove when/if we have Brexit, and when new trade deals eventually start to be nailed down. At that point—you’ll probably have a change of Ministers anyway—there will be a lot of pressure on the UK Government to accept the race to the bottom of food systems, if I can put it that way, as part of the deals that we're talking about. And so, I really do feel that the Welsh Government and the Welsh Assembly need to be articulating these issues in Westminster—it’s Westminster we have to deal with now; it will be not Brussels in this respect. We can’t rely on the defence system, if you like, of the European food system institution here; we have to build our own. So, I think that needs to be made much more convincing. So, I'm optimistic in many respects, but it is demanding a much more urgent and strategic approach, which is internal to Wales but which also can be articulated in what will have to be new systems of intermediation, if you like, between the devolved authorities and the UK Government.
I’d just like to ask you, because I disagree on some of the points you’ve put there—. I mean, if you look at the high street, the high street has—
If you look at the high street, the high street has been Americanised—Starbucks, McDonald’s, KFC and all the rest of it. And I appreciate you're looking at the fast-food sector there, but to think that there’s this tidal wave of Americanisation going to come in because of Brexit, it’s already with us, it is.
But the point I’d like to take up with you is the argument you put earlier about developing processing capacity, especially in rural locations. Amen to that. That’s what we need to be doing to add value. But it’s one thing saying it in a committee room like this; it’s another thing delivering that. There have been various initiatives brought forward over the years: the Welsh milk initiative that was delivered in Whitland, for example, then bought by Dairy Crest, and basically shut down because it was seen as a competitor, it was. How do you actually see, practically, our ability to develop that processing sector, whether it be meat, whether it be milk, whether it be the vegetable sector, because we haven’t got, regrettably, a good track record of doing that here in Wales? We’ve got niche sectors that are doing very well, but, regrettably, when it comes to main stream, we’ve haemorrhaged that processing capacity here in Wales.
Again, that's not easy. It links into economic, fiscal policies, planning policies. I think this is another element of a food strategy, which incorporates farming, by the way, and a farming policy. Currently, the farming Brexit consultation doesn't really deal with a lot of what we're talking about here this morning. So, again, you've got this fragmentation. We want to keep farmers on the land. That's another aspect of all this. We want them to produce healthy, good quality food, and we want more of that food adding value locally and within the country as a whole.
So, what are the obstacles to that? Clearly, you've put your finger on many of them. There are high levels of concentration and competition policies. Market domination by a power, if you like, is against many of these sorts of issues. So, we need to link it to a rural economic policy. This is my point in the second paper here, where I heretically suggest the idea of a new rural development board for Wales, by the way, as well, which doesn't go down very well; it's seen as a very old hat idea. Many people don't even remember the rural development board for Wales, but anyway. But I think the point about it is that this links to getting serious about rural and marine economic development and a reconstruction approach. It's the sort of thing we did do after the second world war. We faced austerity, we faced debt crisis, we faced Americanisation, and we lost what vestiges of imperialism we had. What did we do? We created big national infrastructures. So, it is possible. I tell my students, 'Don't get too depressed about austerity.' Yes, austerity is there, but it takes political will to do these things, and we have to—. If those are the goals, if we could agree a consensus in Wales on what those goals are for a more healthy, sustainable, rural food economy in Wales, then why can't we develop and carve our own niche to develop that?
That might mean that we have, as I say, new nodes and hubs where we locate food processing establishments, like Cross Hands or wherever. You have a range of these around—Anglesey. You link it to the university sectors with R&D. So, I think the will needs to be there to look through this, and then of course perhaps we have to deregulate. Yes, we do have to deregulate things: competition law, state aid, the way we've allowed concentration to occur in certain sectors, the way we've allowed foreign direct investment to go in the retailing sector. We have to address that. We need to think what the high street is. What are we going to have on the high street in St Mary's Street, or wherever, in Builth Wells? Because there must be opportunities there for using technologies, creating new box schemes, creating new retail outlets and restaurants and so on in many of these towns.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Professor Marsden. As always, you've been very informative. Thank you very much. You know about checking the transcript just to make sure it's all right. As I say to everybody, I tend to move around, and if you do that sometimes it misses the odd word. So, thank you very much.
Thank you for the questions. I hope we can make some progress.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Can I move Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from item 7 of today's meeting?
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:14.
The public part of the meeting ended at 12:14.