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Welsh beer and spirits planning for a robust future

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PRODUCERS from across the Welsh beer and spirits sectors have gathered to launch their respective strategies to improve sector collaboration and drive growth moving forward.

Held at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay, the Welsh Beer Strategy and Welsh Spirits Strategy will help the drinks industry meet current challenges, including the cost of living crisis and spiralling energy, supply chain and raw material costs.

The drinks industry remains integral to the Welsh economy, with a turnover last year of just over £820m. Beer and cider accounted for £212m of this, with spirits being £241m. This makes drinks the fourth biggest food sector in Wales behind red meat, dairy and bakery. Furthermore, over 1,200 people are employed in the industry, with many of them based in rural locations.

The two strategies were developed by leading industry figures from the brewing and distilling sectors, facilitated by the Food & Drink Wales Drinks Cluster. Support and input was also received from Welsh Government officials at Food & Drink Wales, along with wider partners.

Themes identified as being critical for the future success of both industries include increasing the level of Welsh product in the on and off-trade, boosting their tourism offer, through brewery and distillery tours, increasing exports, upskilling the workforce to help drive knowledge transfer and innovation, along with closer collaborations across the supply chain to help with efficiencies and cost savings.

Following the publication of the strategies, a timeline has been in put in place to monitor progress, with an evaluation of their impact slated for the summer of 2026.

Commenting on the two strategies, Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths, said, “I was pleased to attend the launch of the Welsh Beer Strategy and the Welsh Spirits Strategy, and see first-hand the ambition and willingness to collaborate that exists amongst our brewers and distillers.

“The strategies will help drive wider benefits, such as boosting tourism across the country.

“Both beer and spirit production are highly valuable to the Welsh economy, and a thriving drinks sector is vital to a successful food and drink industry, and will help raise its profile overseas.”

The Welsh beer industry has experienced unprecedented disruption and economic shocks in recent years, with the Covid pandemic proving to be particularly damaging amidst continuing pub closures.

However, there remains over 60 established brewers in Wales employing 600 people, with a further 63 smaller enterprises.

Richard Lever of Magic Dragon Brewing said, “The Welsh Beer Strategy offers us a clear vision of where we want to take the industry, and the areas we need to focus on to create a profitable and sustainable brewing industry.

“We can see that people are prepared to pay a premium for a quality product, and we are blessed in Wales to have so many breweries who take pride in their product and are prepared to work collaboratively with each other to help drive the industry forward.”

The Welsh spirits sector is a relatively small, but a thriving sector with huge potential. With 53 companies employing over 300 people, it plays a crucial role in preserving cultural heritage, promoting local economies, and celebrating the unique flavours and traditions of Wales.

In a significant milestone, Single Malt Welsh Whisky was recently awarded PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status, joining the likes of Scotch Whisky by being recognised for its unique flavour and tradition.

Speaking of his hopes for the Welsh spirits industry, Chris Leeke of Hensol Castle Distillery said, “We want to be at the forefront of a thriving industry, and the Welsh Spirits Strategy will help us achieve this.

“Our vision is to be recognised for the quality of our product, which will help us compete in both local and global markets. Many of us want to capitalise on export opportunities, which can only help raise the profile of our food and drink industry overseas.

We hope we can continue to build our profile and show consumers that by choosing Welsh, they are getting a product full to the brim with quality and provenance.”

If you require further details on the Welsh Beer Strategy and the Welsh Spirits Strategy, please contact the Welsh Government Drinks Cluster team via [email protected]

Business

West Wales firm fined £75,000 after man killed by escaped cow

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A WEST WALES company has been fined £75,000 following the death of a 75-year-old man, Huw Evans, who was killed by a cow that had escaped from a livestock market. The incident occurred on November 19, 2022, at Whitland Livestock Market in Carmarthenshire, operated by J.J. Morris Limited.

Father-of-two Mr Evans was crossing the junction at North Road and West Street in Whitland when the cow, which was being auctioned, escaped from the market pen. The animal attacked Mr Evans, knocking him down and trampling him. He suffered multiple injuries and was airlifted to the University Hospital of Wales, where he succumbed to his injuries six days later.

A worker from J.J. Morris Limited was also injured during an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the cow. The cow eventually made its way towards Whitland Rugby Club and a railway line before being subdued and put down by Dyfed-Powys Police.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the incident and found that J.J. Morris Limited had failed to implement essential physical control measures to prevent cattle from escaping. The HSE concluded that the company’s risk assessment was inadequate, referencing control measures that were not in place at the market.

J.J. Morris Limited, based in Haverfordwest, admitted to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £5,047.55 in costs by Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, June 20.

In court, Mr Evans’ son, Dafydd, expressed his grief, saying: “Dad was my best friend, and I miss him terribly. He was taken from us too soon. Losing dad has had a tremendous effect on both myself and my brother. Because of this incident, dad’s grandsons will never fully know him personally, and he will not see them grow up.”

Following the hearing, HSE inspector Rhys Hughes remarked, “This tragic incident was foreseeable and preventable. The risk posed by cattle escaping from the livestock mart should have been identified, and effective control measures implemented. The case highlights the importance of following industry guidance, which is readily accessible and outlines the requirements to safely manage cattle.”

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Business

Tata workers call first strikes in 40 years to stop steel destruction

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HISTORIC strikes in Port Talbot as Labour vows emergency talks with Tata after general election

Around 1,500 Tata workers based in Port Talbot and Llanwern will begin all-out indefinite strike action over the company’s plans to cut 2,800 jobs and close its blast furnaces.

The strike action, which begins on 8 July, will severely impact Tata’s UK operations. It is the first time in over 40 years that steel workers in the UK have taken strike action.

The escalation in industrial action comes after the workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, began working to rule and an overtime ban on Tuesday (June 17).

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tata’s workers are not just fighting for their jobs – they are fighting for the future of their communities and the future of steel in Wales.

“Our members will not standby while this immensely wealthy conglomerate tries to throw Port Talbot and Llanwern on the scrapheap so it can boost its operations abroad. They know South Wales is ideally placed to take advantage of the coming boom in green steel – if the right choices are made.

“The strikes will go on until Tata halts its disastrous plans. Unite is backing Tata’s workers to the hilt in their historic battle to save the Welsh steel industry and give it the bright future it deserves.”

Labour has called for Tata to halt its plans and wait until after the general election to engage in talks with the government, saying there is a ‘better deal to do’. Labour has pledged £3 billion for UK steel if elected next month, a commitment secured by Unite. Labour has also made emergency talks with Tata a priority if it wins the election.

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Amendments submitted for holiday chalets scheme at trout fishery

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Amendments to a scheme granted by Pembrokeshire councillors last year after being repeatedly recommended for refusal have been submitted to county planners.

Last summer, Pembrokeshire councillors backed plans for holiday chalets at a trout fishery, despite them being recommended for refusal on multiple occasions.

Plans to provide nine accommodation cabins and ancillary works at a former fishery business at Millbrook, Manorwen, Fishguard, were backed at two meetings of Pembrokeshire County Council planning committee, despite them being recommended for refusal.

The application was backed for a second time at the committee’s May meeting, after a ‘minded to approve’ decision at the previous meeting.

The decision, a departure from the adopted Local Development Plan, meant the application would need to be referred to full council for a final decision.

Officers had repeatedly recommended Messrs L & C Williams’ application  – diversification of an existing agricultural holding and trout fishery business – be refused on the grounds it would have an unacceptable adverse impact on the character and appearance of the countryside.

The application was then considered at the July 2023 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, with a recommendation that the council did not endorse the resolution of the planning committee on the grounds it went against Development Plan policies which directed that planning permission should not be granted.

The application was conditionally approved by 48 votes to eight, with one abstention.

The applicants have now submitted amendments to the granted scheme, asking for revisions to the plans to include a lower carbon footprint through air-source heat exchangers for both heating and hot water and the use of solar panels.

It also includes the need for addition excavations needed and hopes to make it more disability-friendly.

The amendments will be considered at a later date.

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