“With no support for wholesale, there’s no food for caterers” – Bielby

Food and drink wholesalers must be prioritised for the £425 million allocated for discretionary business grants after missing out on sector-specific financial support in today’s Budget, says FWD.

Welcoming the announcement of £425m in local authority awards for businesses that are affected by the Covid pandemic but are unable to close, FWD Chief Executive James Bielby said the money was desperately needed by the wholesalers who supply pubs and restaurants as well as schools, hospitals and care homes.

“It’s essential that guidance is issued immediately, explictly fast-tracking food and drink wholesalers for the support they’ve been denied elsewhere,” he said.

“After a year of burning though their cash reserves, with food and money thrown away because of the government’s short-notice announcements of lockdowns and bungled re-opening of schools in January, wholesalers simply don’t have the cash to re-stock ahead of their hospitality customers re-opening,” he said.

“The government has relied on this industry to bail it out on several occasions over the last 12 months and there simply isn’t enough left in the coffers to give Mr Sunak the surge in eating out that he’s banking on to revive the hospitality sector.

With no support for wholesale, there’s no food for caterers and no economic recovery for the high street.

“It cannot be the Chancellor’s intention that pubs and restaurants will be handed £18,000 to stay closed until mid-April at the earliest, while their wholesalers – who have had to remain open throughout the pandemic, trading at a loss to supply schools, care homes and hospitals – have no direct support.”

FWD understands that guidance for local authorities on the additional business funding will be published soon.

FWD also welcomed the extension of furlough until September but Bielby pointed out wages are only a proportion of their overheads. “They need government assistance to buy, store, refrigerate and distribute the food the hospitality sector desperately needs as it re-opens,” he added.

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