WFDs grandiose schemes attacked
By Robert Davies
FIERCE criticism has been levelled at the body responsible for promoting the marketing of Welsh food.
Members of the NFUs Welsh Council made it clear to Wynford James, director of the Welsh Food Directorate, that they were unhappy about the way the £4.8m a year budget was being spent.
Union president, Hugh Richards, broke with tradition by attacking WFD from the chair for concentrating on recruiting a staff of 22 executives, and concentrating on grandiose schemes, rather than trying to put more money in the pockets of hard-pressed producers.
Huw Evans, livestock committee chairman, said many farmers were uneasy about the performance of the Directorate, which was established in Apr 1999 under the umbrella of the Welsh Development Agency. It seemed to be interested only in schemes that helped a few on the periphery of the food industry, while leaving farmers in limbo.
Glamorgan delegate Ed Rees said he was expressing the anger and frustration of many farmers when he complained that the WFD was tinkering around the edges of marketing, rather than doing something constructive to stop farming "going down the sink".
Visibly shaken, Mr James tried to defend WFDs record. People had to be recruited to create a credible delivery mechanism for the National Assemblys food industry strategy. He considered that taking 10 months to conduct a feasibility study and draft a prospectus for the proposed co-op was "very reasonable".
"We do not have the power to intervene directly in markets to put extra money in farmers pockets," Mr James insisted. "I think we have achieved a great deal within our remit for progressing the Welsh Food Strategy, which will bring benefits to primary producers. More than £760,000 has been paid in grants to specific projects." *