17 November 2016
Article by Eleanor Warren-Thomas National Assembly for Wales Research Service
On Tuesday 22 November Lesley Griffiths, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, will make a statement to the Assembly on the food and drink industry. On 21 June, she updated the Assembly on progress towards some of the actions in the Welsh Government’s Food and Drink Action Plan.
The Action Plan
The 2014 Food and Drink Action Plan contains 48 actions, addressing areas such as: business growth; market development; innovation; development of a skilled workforce; food safety; healthy eating; and food security.
The Plan has three overarching actions:
- establishing a food and drink industry board;
- developing the Food and Drink Wales umbrella trade identity; and
- filling skills gaps identified in the industry.
The headline ambition of the Plan is to grow food and farming sector turnover by 30%, and Gross Value Added by 10%, by 2020.
The Plan states that the Welsh Government will produce a mid-term review of progress in 2017, and a final report in 2020. Each of the 48 actions also specifies short-term milestones to be met during 2014 – 2016.
Cabinet Secretary’s previous statement
The Cabinet Secretary began by highlighting links between the Plan and all seven goals within the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. She then outlined progress towards some of the actions in the Plan.
The Cabinet Secretary said that progress has already been made towards business growth targets: 17 per cent growth in turnover since 2014, more than halfway towards the 2020 target. The work of the now-established Food and Drink Wales Industry Board will inform further actions to continue this growth.
Exports are crucial for Welsh food and drink businesses, and export and trade events programmes supported by Welsh Government have generated £7 million of new sales. Additional support for businesses to develop exports was also highlighted.
Healthy eating and food poverty
The Cabinet Secretary said that responsibility for achieving the goal of “a healthier Wales” needs to be shared across the food chain, as discussed at the Food for the Future Conference, and that healthy eating criteria were being worked into the National Procurement Service tendering process. Food Innovation Wales, which provides research and development support for food businesses, also has a role in developing healthier foods.
Drawing a link between healthy eating and food poverty, the Cabinet Secretary highlighted the Food Poverty Alliance, which currently works to tackle school holiday hunger for children in Wales.
Responsibility and sustainability
Improving resource efficiency in the industry is another aim of the Action Plan. The Welsh Government has signed the voluntary Courltard 2025 agreement to reduce waste, and has included sustainability measures in the screening process for food business investment grants. The Cabinet Secretary also highlighted the Resource Efficient Wales service, which provides a single point of access to efficiency information and advice.
Food safety and security were also mentioned, although no new initiatives were announced.
Welsh food identity
The Cabinet Secretary closed her statement by discussing the Food and Drink Wales identity, the importance of events promoting Welsh food, culture and language, and ongoing work to secure EU protected food name status for Welsh products.
Food and Tourism Action Plan
Four themes of priority tasks are identified in the Action Plan:
- events and activities;
- developing expertise; and
- PR and marketing.
Food Policy as Public Policy
The Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) reviewed (PDF 731 KB) the Action Plan. PPIW criticised the strong focus on post farm-gate business and the Plan’s separation from policy and actions on primary production. It made a number of recommendations, including:
- improving the sustainability of public sector food procurement such as through adoption of Food for Life;
- supporting farmers to produce sustainable, higher quality red meat;
- supporting sustainable consumption and food production practices;
- supporting the development of short food supply chains;
- expanding horticulture;
- supporting community food initiatives; and
- improving data collection and monitoring of food resilience and security indicators.
Implications of Brexit
Data from the Value of Welsh Food and Drink report shows that 88 per cent of all exports in 2015 were to the EU, worth £264 million in 2015, meaning changes to trade arrangements between the UK and the EU could have a strong impact on the industry.
The EU protected food name scheme gives legal protection against imitation of registered regional and traditional foods or drinks throughout the EU. Eight Welsh products are currently registered under the scheme, but the future of their status may depend on the outcome of trade negotiations between the UK and the EU.
The Research Service acknowledges the parliamentary fellowship provided to Miss Warren-Thomas by the Natural Environment Research Council, which enabled this blog post to be completed.