Welsh food sector gets £21m cash injection
A £21m investment programme for Wales’ food and drink sector, designed to deliver £100m of growth for the Welsh economy, was announced at the Taste Wales conference in Newport today (23 March).
The cash is meant to help fund research into global food production, trends and waste to help small to medium-sized food manufacturers across Wales to increase production and reduce waste.
Revealing the initiative, dubbed Project Helix, Jane Hutt, leader of the house in the Welsh Government, said the food and drink industry contributed more than £17bn a year to the Welsh economy. “The industry is a priority sector for our government,” she said.
The Welsh Government had set a target to grow Wales’ food and drink sector by 30% by 2020, Hutt explained. “We are already more than half way towards our 2020 growth target,” she added.
Project Helix is funded through the Rural Development Programme and is expected to create 370 jobs, primarily in rural Wales and the Valleys, while safeguarding 2,000 over the next five years.
The programme follows a smaller scheme launched in Wales in May 2016, offering funding for micro-businesses turning over £2m or less a year.
Hutt also issued a challenge to the food industry to develop healthy food products, particularly for children, inviting businesses to compete for a £1m pot earmarked for that purpose.
Addressing the prospect of a future outside the EU, Hutt said more than 90% of Wales’ exports go to the EU, so the challenge was obvious. “… We must now take the opportunity to consolidate EU markets and develop new markets outside the EU.
“Our government’s response to this, through our White Paper, is to continue to call for full and unfettered access to the single market, and to ensure that Wales remains an outward [looking] and welcoming nation.”
“We must now take the opportunity to consolidate EU markets and develop markets outside the EU. The Welsh Government is committed to securing full, unfettered access to the EU.”
Speaking after Hutt, Adam Leyland, editor of Meat Trades Journal’s sister title The Grocer, name-checked a raft of impressive Welsh brands, including Celtic Beef, Edwards of Conwy meat products and Patchwork Pâté.
He praised Welsh Lamb, which has gained EU Protected Geographical Indication status, but reminded delegates: “Welsh beef is worth marginally more to the [Welsh] economy.” Very few Welsh suppliers had a branded meat presence, he said.
Summing up, Leyland said: “I want to congratulate the Welsh Government for investing in food and drink.” He contrasted this with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs – “a government department whose impoverishment is as much of talent and listening skills as it is financial”, he said.
More than 100 Welsh producers showcased their wares at Taste Wales to more than 150 international buyers.
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