When Conservative leader David Cameron visited Cotswold miller FWP Matthews to see the company’s new facilities and learn about a partnership with French miller Moul-bie, he was a little surprised to be asked questions by British Baker (see panel opposite page). Yet in a short, but wide-ranging conversation, he answered willingly.First, however, he told FWP Matthews managing director Paul Matthews that he was delighted to return to the mill after a gap of three years and see big changes, including the addition of a test bakery. He added: “I really love my daily bread, particularly crusty Cotswold Crunch which does not go on my expenses!”The day began with a gathering of around 30 local farmers and customers. Paul Matthews welcomed David Cameron as his local MP and outlined the changes that had taken place in the past three years, including new offices, a test bakery, warehouse, blending plant and bag palletiser. The group’s morning agenda started with a presentation by Alex Waugh of the National Association of British and Irish Millers (Nabim), followed by a tour of the working mill and a bread-making session with a Moul-bie baker under the watchful eye of Moul-bie’s European director Michel Nguyen, not to mention the curious farmers and bakers.Cameron good-humouredly rushed to keep up with his agenda and attend the talk given by Alex Waugh of Nabim, who told delegates that flour is present in 15-20% of all goods in the food chain, produced by around 30 businesses employing 2,500 people and 300 trained millers. He said: “It is extraordinary how efficient and intense production is, to be able to supply that percentage of the food chain.”Waugh also spoke about recent harvests and prices and how farmers must have the possibility of a return on what they sow. He said this year’s wheat harvest is good, approximately 15m tonnes, and protein content is higher than last year, but he added, “The cost of fertiliser for farmers has been way up on previous years, so production costs have also been high.”He then spoke about a schools education programme that the Flour Advisory Bureau (part of Nabim and also representing bakers) has devised. Visit www.grainchain.co.uk.As Cameron departed, Paul Matthews’ thoughts returned to daily business. He told British Baker: “In spite of the recession there will always be opportunities; you must go and look for them. Tell people what you do and don’t hide your lamp under a bushel in this climate.”Moul-bie’s Nguyen expounded on the commercial partnership with Matthews: “It started 10 years ago. We supplied Matthews and set up the Ronde des Pains craft bakers training scheme which is still going to this day. Matthews distributes our range of flours and mixes to the craft bakery sector. We provide technical assistance with French bakers, demonstrating how to make excellent French breads. We exclusively supply and support the craft trade with merchandising equipment to produce artisan bread and supply our flours and mixes also into Bako.”He continued: “Now, however, our partnership has moved on. As Matthews’ business has grown, we have entered into a licensing agreement to transfer our technology and our Maquette (specifically sourced pure wheat varieties which are not blended) and then we commission the blend.”Matthews added: “Matthews purchases the wheat from Moul-bie for traditional baguette flours. They go under the Moul-bie name but it states on the bag ’milled under licence by FWP Matthews’. This provides our customers with authentic French flour, unique to Moul-bie and Matthews in the marketplace.”Nowadays, customers are much more discerning than 20 years ago. They want authenticity and traceability. And by buying from us, they don’t just get flour but a great service.”Matthews in turn seems to get a good service from its local MP, though many attendees said they also expected a turnaround next year from MP to PM.
By Steven McLoud/Diálogo May 06, 2020 General Vladimir Padrino, the Venezuelan minister of Defense, is worth millions of dollars according to a new report published on April 10, 2020, by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).Hernan Akhnanton Noguera, another high-ranking general in the Nicolás Maduro regime, is also reported to make millions. Yet both of these generals “officially” make no more than $8 to $9 a month. And they’re not the only ones.According to the OCCRP, there are at least 84 generals in the Venezuelan Army who work with private or public companies that are listed in the National Contractor Registry. This registry is a database with information about Venezuelan government contractors. Of the 84 generals mentioned in the OCCRP report, 35 of them sit on the boards of private companies throughout Venezuela and other countries, including the United States.Through their investigation, the OCCRP has revealed that Maduro has been doling out lucrative state contracts to these generals in return for their loyalty as the country itself continues to deteriorate politically and economically.These contracts are in the construction, food, transportation and oil sectors, in addition to other areas such as advertising, healthcare equipment, and tourism. Yet the report states that “under the Venezuelan Constitution and the country’s anti-corruption law, it is illegal for public officials to use their office for personal benefit, either directly or through a third party. That includes capitalizing on personal connections to win state contracts.” Origins of civil-military alliance The military’s involvement in Venezuela’s economy began more than 20 years ago when Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998.Upon his election, Chávez instituted a new “civil-military” alliance called the “Plan Bolívar”, which according to the U.S. Department of State, involved around 40,000 Venezuelan soldiers taking part in several public projects in poverty stricken areas to provide mass vaccinations, food distribution, education, and infrastructure repair.In 2002, the program was cancelled following reports of corruption against generals involved in the $114 million plan, alleging that significant amounts of money had been diverted.When Maduro took over in 2013 after Chávez’s death, the OCCRP report states that he expanded the military’s role in civilian life even further. According to the report, “as of 2018, active or retired officers comprise seven out of 23 state governors, along with nine heads of government ministries. Officers also ran at least 60 state companies.”Because of the sanctions placed by the United States, along with the economic collapse and hyperinflation of the Venezuelan economy, the meager salaries for military officers across the board have forced them to seek alternate revenue streams, says a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.Another revenue stream that officers and military hierarchy have been linked to includes the more lucrative business of drug trafficking, so much so that the U.S. has labeled Venezuela as a “narco-state” with the upper echelons of the Maduro regime, including Maduro himself — accused of running a narcotrafficking ring known as the “Cartel of the Suns.”On March 26, U.S. officials indicted Maduro and 14 members of his inner circle, including Padrino, with several charges including narco-terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, and corruption.U.S officials, along with government and private sector analysts alike, believe that one of the primary reasons that the Venezuelan military and top government officials have not challenged or undermined the regime is because they continue to reap financial rewards, even as the country has spiraled into endemic corruption and extreme poverty.