* Pictured at the North East Wales Food Conference at Glyndwr University are, from left, Jonathan Copeland, of Headland Foods, Andrew Martin, Senior Business Development Manager for the Welsh Government, John Les Tomos, Mold Food Festival, Llior Radford, Llaeth y Llan, Donna Hughes, Wrexham Northern Marches; Mark Roberts, Wrexham Lager; and Robert Price, Cadwyn Clwyd.
North Wales is driving growth in the booming Welsh food sector, according to a top Welsh Government food adviser.
Andrew Martin, Welsh Government Senior Business Development Manager, told a conference in Wrexham: “Food producers in North Wales are among the most successful and innovative in the country and business growth here is the strongest in Wales.
“One of our biggest selling points is that our food is seen as safe which has helped us take business from countries like Ireland – it’s a trust thing and we are trusted with what we are doing with our environment, our stock and our horticulture.
“The Welsh Government is intent on delivering growth, that is the action plan and the challenge is there and so are the opportunities and the question is how we continue to drive growth forward in this region.”
He was addressing the North East Wales Food Conference, organised by rural regeneration organisations Cadwyn Clwyd and Northern Marches Cymru and held at the Catrin Finch Centre at Glyndwr Univerity.
The conference, staged by the two organisations and paid for for through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) through the Welsh Government’s Rural Development Plan, was addressed by a range of speakers.
These included Mark Roberts, from the Wrexham Lager Company, Llior Radford, of Llaeth y Llan dairy products, Jonathan Copeland, of Bridgehead Food Partners, and John Les Thomas, of Mold Food Festival.
Andrew Martin also pointed to the success of the recent Conference of Welsh Food Festivals held in Llangollen and organised by Hamper Llangollen, the food festival based in the town.
That initiative is leading to the formation of an Association of Welsh Food Festivals and Martin, who has a responsibility for the North Wales area, also had a positive message for them as he promised a change in funding arrangements.
He said: “Food festivals have been slightly misunderstood but thanks to that conference in Llangollen we are moving on and there is an opportunity to develop the business that attend food festivals and get more of their products out into the mainstream markets.
“The Welsh Government is already looking at changing the funding programme from an annual one to a three-yearly system to give more consistency and security of funding.
“We can change almost anything but we need you to tell us to do it and that it’s what you want.”
Colin Loughlin, Chairman of Hamper Llangollen, welcomed the funding news and said: “We were delighted to hear that the Welsh Government is considering moving to a three-year model for funding.
“This would provide more security of funding – at present we don’t know from one year to the next what the level of funding will be or whether we will get any at all and festivals do so much to promote Wales and Welsh food.
“One of the reasons for forming an Association of Welsh Food Festivals is so that we can press for changes like this but also so that we can share best practices and make cost savings on services such as insurance by being able to buy as a group.”
Mark Roberts, Director of Wrexham Lager, spoke about the challenge of marketing a product while Jonathan Copeland, whose company supplies cheese for major supermarket chains, and Llior Radford, of Llaeth y Llan, talked about dealing with the multiples and marketing and John Les Tomos described the challenges of running a food festival.
Robert Price, Cadwyn Clwyd Agri-Food Officer for Denbighshire and Flintshire, said: “The North East Wales Food Conference has become a major date in the food calendar of the region.
“It is important both for the opportunity it gives for networking but also for the chance to hear the latest news both from the Welsh Government and from some of our most interesting and innovative food producers.”
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