Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Environment Energy and Rural Affairs
Today, we are welcoming the global food and drink industry to Wales for BlasCymru/TasteWales 2019. This is the second time we have held this international trade event and conference for the food and drink industry in Wales. The first event, which took place in March 2017, was a resounding success and generated £16m in extra orders for Welsh producers.
This year’s event has attracted over 550 delegates, including some of the finest exponents of our food and drink industry. With over 100 Welsh companies in attendance, together with our universities and innovation centres showcasing cutting edge technological advances being made in Wales in the world of food technology, as well as the wealth of business support services on offer to the industry here in Wales, the event showcases the clear strength and quality of our growing and thriving industry.
We are extremely proud of our high-quality food and drink and recognise the enormous value it brings to our economy. The industry is rightly a foundation sector for our Government and our ambitious Action Plan ‘Towards Sustainable Growth’, sets a clear roadmap, working in partnership with industry through our Food and Drink Wales Industry Board, to grow the sector by 30% to £7bn by 2020. We are currently at £6.8bn, well on course to achieve this.
Welsh food and drink exports were worth £539 million in 2018, indicative of continual growth, and up 24% in the last 2 years. 73% of our exports went to the European Community (EC), which is even higher within some categories such as red meat. Whilst the overall value fell by £14m, this was offset by a value increase of £25m in non-EU Exports which indicates our companies’ ability to transition in challenging trade conditions. This follows a very successful presence at the Gulfood show in Dubai in February 2018 and 2019 and a Trade Development visit to Qatar in October 2018.
At this year’s Blas Cymru/Taste Wales we have 200 buyers attending, of whom 80 are from outside of the UK and of the 80, 48 are outside of Europe which represents a 78% increase from the event held in 2017. We are, therefore, consolidating the UK and European markets and actively developing new ones outside the EU.
It has never been more important to raise Wales’ international profile and proactively sell our quality food and drink produce to the world. I am pleased, therefore, trade buyers are participating in BlasCymru/TasteWales from the USA, Canada, China, Sweden, France, Italy, UAE, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Qatar and Japan.
Our event also provides a strong platform to showcase Wales as a premier destination for inward investment. We want to build on our recent record levels of inward investment secured, with investment by foreign owned companies in the food and drink industry creating and safeguarding more than a thousand jobs in Wales in the last 2 years, many of which are from Princes Foods who is investing in its site in Cardiff and is the main event sponsor for Blas Cymru/Taste Wales.
BlasCymru/TasteWales is also providing a strong platform to strengthen collaboration with our European partners. A delegation from the Atlantic Food Export Project (including from regions in France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Northern Ireland) will be visiting Wales because of the strong developing links between the Welsh and European food and drink sector. I am also delighted Food Innovation Wales has become a network partner of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Food, Europe’s leading food innovation initiative. Supported by Welsh Government funding, this will establish a dedicated EIT Food presence in Wales, linking the Welsh industry to a wider consortium of key industry players, start-ups, research centres and universities from across Europe.
These examples of international collaboration will be even more important in the coming months and years and are clear proof of our determination for Wales to continue to engage practically and positively across Europe. Whatever the future brings, our resolve to not only maintain but to strengthen our partnerships with nations and regions across Europe is absolute.
At Blas Cymru/Taste Wales in 2017, funding investment of £21m was announced in a major new food and drink innovation project. Latest figures show almost two years since its launch Project Helix, which aims to boost innovation and efficiency in the Welsh food and drink industry, has already had an impact of over £82m. Using state of the art manufacturing facilities the scheme has provided technical support and bespoke training that has helped develop hundreds of new products, many of which are on display at Blas Cymru/Taste Wales, helped businesses innovate, be more productive, improve skills and reduce waste in the supply chain. Half way through Project HELIX, it is well on its way to meeting its targets.
The project is delivered in partnership with 3 food centres based in Anglesey, Ceredigion and Cardiff, together comprising Food Innovation Wales.
The Business clusters we have developed with industry, have reached and engaged with over 450 businesses. This cluster network has delivered great business-led results and has opened up new opportunities, such as developing a new route into London for Welsh Businesses with a much better understanding of the market, and a much more extensive trade show presence where cluster businesses are working collaboratively to secure new buyers. The Cluster network continues to grow and demonstrates how Government, business and academia working closely together can have a real impact in the economy. Our commitment to business clustering is unwavering because this is a proven catalyst to innovation, raising ambition and enabling industry driven solutions.
Overall, BlasCymru/TasteWales provides a strong launchpad to accelerate the growth trajectory of the Welsh food and drink industry in changing times including the challenges and opportunities presented following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. It demonstrates our clear determination to ensure we continue to collectively promote and showcase the very best that the Welsh food and drink industry has to offer, further raise the profile and reputation of Welsh food and drink on the world stage and ensure Wales remains an outward and welcoming nation.