Page last updated at 05:45 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 06:45 UK

'Food champion' needed for Wales

Fish recipe booklet
The assembly government recently released a seafood recipes booklet

A "food champion" to oversee the promotion of Welsh produce should be put in place, say Assembly Members.

They say there are too many food strategies in place and there is a perception of a lack of coherence by the assembly government over the issue.

The AMs also suggested there had been a "loss of momentum" over food promotion in recent years.

The assembly government denied this, but said it was already looking to appoint a food champion in November.

The appointment is one of the main recommendations in a report of the assembly's rural development sub-committee inquiry into the production and promotion of Welsh food.

It will be published at the Royal Welsh Show.

Committee chairman Alun Davies said: "The committee is concerned that the perception of external organisations is one of a lack of coherence and joined-up working.

Since January milk prices paid to farmers have fallen from 26p to 22p a litre

"We also found claims regarding the loss of expertise worrying.

"At one time the Welsh government was seen as leading on innovation, support and development and we believe that a fully coherent Welsh food promotion policy is now needed to bring us back to that position."

During the inquiry, the committee heard evidence from National Farmers Union of Wales that there had been "a loss of momentum in the food agenda" since the Welsh Development Agency had become part of the assembly government.

Mr Davies said the committee felt that the new assembly government "Food and Drink from Wales" strategy should aim to "build a sustainable food system at its core, to balance the challenges of food production, energy needs and environmental protection."

He said the committee felt Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones should ensure that the needs of Wales were fully represented in the establishment of a British ombudsman, including the provision of a fully bilingual service for Wales.

Candidate shortlist

She should also ensure that the UK Government fully represented the needs of Welsh producers and consumers and voice concerns raised over the traceability of Welsh produce in ongoing discussions on labelling at a European level.

A spokesman for the assembly government said that the process of appointing a food champion had been under way since May as part of the Welsh True Taste Awards.

"The Minister for Rural Affairs, Elin Jones, will be presented with a shortlist of candidates in the autumn and the name of the champion will be announced in November," he added.

"The Welsh Assembly Government refutes the suggestion that 'there has been a loss of momentum in the food agenda'.

"The production, supply and promotion of food is central to the work of the Rural Affairs Department, and the government has strengthened its food division which is based in Aberystwyth.

"The minister has also recently appointed a food and drink partnership to advise and inform her policy making for this important sector.

"Dr Haydn Edwards, who developed the Food Centre at Coleg Menai in Llangefni has been appointed chair of the partnership."

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