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Adapting to change Welsh food producers rise to the challenge of a ‘New World’

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It may not quite be ‘business as usual’ for small food and drink producers in Wales. Still, many are turning to alternative ways, and collaborating with fellow producers to maintain sales.


Supporting producers through these often difficult and rapid changes is Cywain – a programme designed and developed by Menter a Busnes that is dedicated to developing new and existing micro-businesses and SMEs in the Welsh food and drink sector.


Cywain’s Marketing and Events Team Leader, Alex James says: “The changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have hit many food and drink producers particularly hard. But there are positive stories to be highlighted too.


“Through Cywain’s continued work with producers, we know how hard they are working to adapt their business plans and services to enable them to continue to provide customers with fantastic Welsh produce.


“For some it has meant changing the way they work, while others have come together to create new opportunities – and have embraced the spirit of ‘clustering’ which Cywain already fosters as the facilitator for the Fine Food Cluster Wales.


“So, we thought we’d share some of the stories about producers who have
successfully taken up the challenge of operating in this ‘new world’ we are living in. and encourage the public to shop local.”


Cywain’s drive to highlight ‘good news’ stories follows on from the launch of its online Producer Map (https://menterabusnes.cymru/cywain/en/our-producers/ ). The specially created map pinpoints a host of excellent food and drink producers from across Wales who can provide an online shop and delivery service. 


Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “It is heartening to hear how producers and small food and drink companies are adapting their businesses at this time – and I am sure there will be more uplifting and positive stories to come.

“By thinking outside of the box, and by working and clustering together, producers are keeping their enterprises going and continuing to providing customers with wonderful Welsh food and drink.”

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CLAM’S CAKES
Over the past 40 years, Clam’s Cakes has gone from a Crickhowell coffee shop enterprise to a purpose-built bakery supplying hotels, restaurants, cafes and retailers across the UK.


Therefore, when the hospitality sector was closed down, Clam’s lost virtually all its orders overnight. Left with freezers full of its award-winning, hand-made cakes, the company swiftly came up with an alternative plan.


Production may have been temporarily halted, but the Phillips family – who founded the business – have taken to the road to bring people a slice of cheer to people currently unable to leave their homes.


Clam’s are now delivering cakes and biscuits to customers living within a 10-mile radius of Crickhowell.


The cake selection changes weekly, with the list published on the company’s Facebook page. Orders are then placed and paid for by phone and delivered to the customer’s doorstep.


“It’s just been our family doing it, but people have been very grateful,” says
proprietor, Jane Phillips “we’ve had so many compliments. My son, Lewis, has been making bread so that we can offer customers loaves with their orders. We’ve got a warehouse of flour, so we’ve added flour, fresh eggs and butter to the selection. It’s helping our egg supplier too.”


Also, the family has donated personal protective equipment (PPE) normally used in their bakery to a local health centre. And they have been delivering cakes to hospitals and frontline workers. On a personal note, Jane has found the telephone contact with customers rewarding experience too.


“I’ve found some customers who are finding isolation challenging enjoy having a chat when they ring up with their order.


“We may not be making much of a profit at the moment, but we are making people happy.”
More information: www.clamscakes.co.uk

JACK AND AMELIE
Unable to launch their new children’s meal enterprise as planned, Sophie Brown and Abi Dymmock are instead concentrating on building a customer base around their native Cardiff.


The two friends came up with the idea of creating ‘grown-up food for kids’ after their own experiences of trying to juggle the demands of work and a young family. They named the company after their children – ‘Jack and Amelie’.


Says Sophie, “While on maternity leave, we had time to prepare new and varied meals for our children. But on returning to work, this became harder to fit in, and we found there wasn’t a lot of ready prepared food available to help with those busy
times.”


Their dishes are twists on family favourites “packed with veggies”. They offer variety and balance, with meat, vegetarian and vegan-friendly choices. The frozen meals include Rainbow Thai Curry with Lentils and Veggies, Caponata Stew with Herby Turkey Meatballs, Beef Casserole with Root Veggies.


However, the friends’ plans to unveil the Jack and Amelie range at a major UK food and drink trade event last month were scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic.


Undeterred, and utilising the skills from their previous careers in project
management, they swiftly adapted to the situation – and are using their social media channels (@jackandamelie) to keep in touch with customers.


“We’d found a great manufacturer, and we were ramping up production, but we’ve had to change – fortunately in our previous jobs, we were used to pivoting ideas. So, for now, instead of our original plan of supplying retailers, we are selling direct to the public around Cardiff.


“We’re making contactless deliveries and establishing contact with parents. We’ve had great feedback, especially from parents who are now having to look after their children while also working from home.”
More information: www.jackandamelie.co.uk


TŶ TANGLWYST DAIRY
Once a familiar sight, doorstep milk deliveries are proving to be a vital service for many people who are self-isolating.


For south Wales dairy, Tŷ Tangwlyst, doorstep milk deliveries are also helping to keep open an essential outlet for the farm’s award-winning dairy produce.


The Lougher family has long been supplying milk from their 110-strong herd of Pedigree Holstein dairy cattle to customers’ doorsteps around a ten-mile radius of the farm in Pyle, near Bridgend.

Now, as their round gets bigger, it is even prompting the business to expand its workforce.


“With premises such as schools, offices closed, the commercial and wholesale side of our business has taken a downturn. However, our domestic deliveries have increased,” says dairy farmer Rhys Lougher, whose family have been farming at Tŷ Tanglwyst for several generations.


“Demand for doorstep deliveries has been such we’ve had to extend our rounds. As a result, we’ve created extra roles in the company, and when our commercial trade


does come back, we’ll be looking to take on additional staff.
“We’re a small family business with dedicated, hard-working employees. Luckily, we’ve been able to very quickly adapt to changes to our customer base and respond to people’s needs.”


The award-winning business, which produces butter and cream too, also supplies customers with eggs and fruit juice. But in these challenging times, some changes have had to be made to meet demand.


Says Rhys, “There has been a shortage of cardboard egg boxes, so we have had to use plastic, and we’re buying fruit juice in bulk. With more people baking at home there has been a surge in orders for butter – so that has been tight at times.” Orders are placed via Facebook and social media, and for many customers, Tŷ Tanglwyst’s deliveries are particularly welcome.


“People have said how grateful they are for the deliveries and that it is helping them while they have to stay at home. Many people have also said they can taste the difference with our milk, and that when this is all over they will keep ordering from
us.”
More information: www.tytanglwystdairy.com

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Welsh vaccine plant evacuated after receiving suspicious package

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A PLANT where doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are produced and stored has been evacuated after receiving a suspicious package.

Police have confirmed to Herald Wales that officers were at Wrexham Industrial Estate in Ash Road, Holt.

John Roberts, who runs CMS Wrexham Ltd, next door to the plant, said he heard a “big bang” at about 11:35 HRS.

Wockhardt UK has confirmed that the plant has been evacuated after receiving a suspicious package.

A statement on its Twitter account said: “Wockhardt UK in Wrexham this morning received a suspicious package.

“Relevant authorities have responded and upon expert advice we have partially evacuated the site pending a full investigation.

“The safety of our employees and business continuity remain of paramount importance.”

A technician at the plant, Ian Hunter, said that the bomb disposal experts from the Royal Logistic Corps had arrived on scene.

Mark Drakeford said: “We are working with local police and the military to find out more about this incident. Thank you to the security personnel who are on-site to protect lives and ensure
the safety of our vaccine supply. This highlights the vital role they play in keeping us all safe. Diolch.”

On Thursday last week Wrexham council leader Mark Pritchard said teams had worked to ensure the vaccine was not lost in the floods.
The Welsh Government said there had been “no adverse effects” on the coronavirus vaccine roll-out.

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Arrest as up to 80 suspected stolen dogs are found by police

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POLICE have recovered a large number of dogs suspected to have been stolen in recent months at two locations over the weekend.

Dyfed-Powys Police and South Wales Police attended two areas where dogs and puppies believed to be worth tens of thousands of pounds were found.

South Wales Police observed several dogs being released onto common land from a nearby location in Briton Ferry and recovered six dogs on Saturday, January 23. The owners of these stolen dogs have been identified and they have been returned home. A further criminal investigation is ongoing.

Superintendent Cath Larkman, of South Wales Police, said: “It needs to be borne in mind that these dogs are not merely items of financial value, these are living creatures who feel pain and suffering and loss at being stolen and they are much loved family members in many instances. 

“One of the stolen dogs that was recovered at Briton Ferry fell into the water in panic at being released and had to be rescued by a police officer to prevent it drowning. 

“We are pleased these dogs are back with their owners.  As a police service, we take this criminality very seriously and our investigations are ongoing.  We are grateful for the assistance of the public for their support with this investigation.”

On Sunday (January 24), Dyfed-Powys Police attended an address in Carmarthenshire, where officers found a large number of dogs and puppies in outbuildings.

Detective Inspector Barry Kelly, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We had been alerted to this property by a dog owner who reported the theft of five bitches and 17 puppies on Friday, January 22.

“On attendance, officers found a number of dogs, some of which have been identified through microchips.

“We estimate there to have been 70 to 80 dogs at the property, with the total value reaching tens of thousands of pounds.”

Officers remain at the location today (Monday, January 25) where work is being undertaken to scan all the animals for microchips and identify their legal owners.

“We have animal welfare officers, local authority staff and South Wales Police officers at the property today, who are making their way through the whole site scanning the dogs,” DI Kelly said.

“The problem we have is that the puppies won’t have been chipped, so unless they are feeding from the mother dog while we are there, it will be very difficult to trace their owners.

One person has been arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods following the warrant at the Carmarthenshire property, and is currently in police custody. Enquiries are ongoing as officers search the site and look into recently reported dog thefts.

DI Kelly said: “We have had seven crimes reported to us in respect of dog thefts in the past six months. The officers in case will review these investigations and re-engage with the victims. As and when we find any link with dogs recovered from the two sites, we will be in contact with the potential owners.

“Although we have made an arrest, our enquiries are still at an early stage, and we would like to hear from anyone with information that might assist us.

“We also urge dog owners – and particularly breeders – to be vigilant and take all possible steps to ensure their animals are secure. A number of dogs stolen in just one incident reported to us were estimated to be worth around £40,000, which goes to show these are incredibly high value thefts.”

Anyone with information that could assist enquiries is asked to contact Dyfed-Powys Police in one of the following ways:

Online: bit.ly/DPPContactOnline

Email: 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk

Call: 101

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Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd

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PAUL DAIVES MS quit as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd this morning.

The Conservatives’ Chief Whip also quit his frontbench role.

The dramatic move comes only 24 hours after Mr Davies got the Conservative Senedd Group’s unanimous backing.

However, later yesterday (Friday, Jan 21) – as criticism poured in – the Welsh Conservatives’ Executive met. In that meeting, Constituency Chairs reported widespread disbelief and anger among the Party’s members. Conservative Party Chair, Lord Davies of Gower, received particular criticism for a lack of leadership. Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, also attended the meeting and was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling within the Party.

In a statement issued via the Conservative Senedd media office, Mr Davies said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on the 8th and 9th December. They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but more importantly with the people of Wales.
“Whilst using the Senedd facilities at all times my colleagues and I maintained social distancing. There was no drunk or disorderly behaviour. We did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested. What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on Tuesday and a beer on Wednesday.
I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.

“For the last 10 months of the pandemic, I have followed the Covid-19 regulations to the letter. As with everyone across Wales, I have not seen family members or friends, I’ve not eaten at my favourite restaurants and, like you, we enjoyed a subdued Christmas compared to other years. I will continue to follow the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 Regulations and I would urge everyone to play their part in defeating this virus so that we can all return to normality.

“My priority as Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament has always been to bring the Conservatives into government in Wales. Our main focus as the Welsh Conservatives must always be on challenging and removing a failing Labour government.

“I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Welsh Conservative Party for their support in this difficult time, and especially to my wife Julie and my Senedd colleagues who have offered empathy, trust and advice. They have treated me with the same courtesy and decency I hope I have always extended to others.

“Over the last couple of days, I have been speaking with colleagues in the Senedd and the wider Conservative Party. Whilst they have confirmed they do not wish to see me step down, I believe that my actions are becoming a distraction from holding this failing Welsh Labour-led Government to account, not just on their rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines but from more than 20 years of their dither, delay and failure. Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday. However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.

“Therefore, I am stepping down as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.”

“It is for the group to decide how best to choose a new leader, but I hope that process will be seamless and speedy, and I pledge my support to whoever becomes leader.”

Darren Millar blamed ‘wildly inaccurate and unfair reports’ and said:

“There was a member of catering staff present in the tea room for a short time after my arrival on the 8th December but she did not serve me a drink, nor did I request one. In fact, I encouraged the member of staff to go home and close up the counter as it had been a long day for her. No members of catering staff were present on the 9th December and the counter was closed for the whole evening.

“While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.

“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group Leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front bench role in the Welsh Parliament.

“I am cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”
Whoever replaces Paul Davies, the role is likely to an interim appointment ahead of a vote of the Party membership after the Senedd election.

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