MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee have called on the Government to act ‘urgently’ to support food suppliers to pubs and restaurants.
Suppliers to the hospitality industry – including many small businesses – have been hit hard by the repeated restrictions introduced in response to the pandemic, with some losing up to 100 per cent of their trade and unable to access the support offered to the companies they sell to.
Giving evidence to the committee earlier this year, James Bielby, chief executive of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD), the trade association representing the food distribution network into retail, catering and public sector, said UK Government policy during the pandemic had been ‘skewed in favour’ of food retail.
The FWD also pointed out that the commercial revenue of wholesalers underwrites public sector contracts, with some of the group’s members now supplying care homes, schools, hospitals and prisons at a loss.
Publishing a new report from the Efra Committee, Covid-19 and the issues of security in food supply, chairman Neil Parish said: “When pubs, bars and restaurants closed, their suppliers’ market evaporated overnight.
“They have worked admirably to pivot to new customers, but many businesses, particularly small ones, are struggling to survive.
“The Government must act now to provide additional help for suppliers. If its supply chain collapses, the money the hospitality sector has received to get them through lockdown will have been wasted.”
The committee’s report came as CLA Cymru warned the differences in Covid restrictions in England and Wales have created ‘misery and confusion’ for rural businesses near the border and ‘more headaches for enforcement’.
The group’s director, Nigel Hollett, said: “Welsh rural tourism businesses offering self-contained accommodation for a few households will welcome the easement [of local travel restrictions].
“But they are confronted with a challenging conversation with customers about where they come from, which may well cause offence.
“Retailers and hospitality businesses on both sides of the border will continue to feel the effects of lockdown. Their plight should not be forgotten as perceptions bed in that it is business as usual for those distant from the border.”