Food whole­salers Plea for help over meat and veg moun­tain

The Guardian - - News Coronaviru­s - Sarah But­ler

Food whole­salers are call­ing on the gov­ern­ment for help as they strug­gle to cope with tens of thou­sands of tonnes of fruit and veg­eta­bles, fresh meat and dairy prod­ucts no longer re­quired by restau­rants, hotels and schools.

As much as £20m of food with a shelf life of less than three months is ly­ing in ware­houses, ac­cord­ing to one trade group, af­ter the gov­ern­ment or­dered the clo­sure of mil­lions of hos­pi­tal­ity businesses around the country to pre­vent the spread of the coro­n­avirus.

James Bielby, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Fed­er­a­tion of Whole­sale Distrib­u­tors, which has 600 mem­bers in­clud­ing Booker, Best­way, Brakes and Costco, said much of the food could not be sold by re­tail­ers be­cause it was in large packs with­out the cor­rect la­belling

about in­gre­di­ents or country of ori­gin re­quired when sell­ing to shop­pers.

He added that re­tail de­mand was start­ing to tail off as shop­pers had stocked up and were now stay­ing at home as much as pos­si­ble, in line with gov­ern­ment guide­lines.

Bielby said most whole­salers’ stock was also not ap­pro­pri­ate for food banks and that the vast ma­jor­ity of care homes and hos­pi­tals were al­ready be­ing supplied by food whole­salers and they did not need more.

Two food whole­salers, Bid­food and Brakes, are work­ing with the gov­ern­ment on pro­vid­ing emer­gency food parcels for up to 400,000 of the UK’s most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple who are iso­lated at home. But these parcels are un­der­stood to con­tain only pack­aged foods such as soup, pasta and milk rather than fresh pro­duce.

It is hoped that some food can be used to sup­ply the net­work of tem­po­rary hos­pi­tals be­ing set up to deal with the surge in coro­n­avirus pa­tients.

John Vin­cent, founder of the Leon restau­rant chain, is also un­der­stood to be de­vel­op­ing an on­line scheme

£20m

Value of food with a shelf life of less than three months that is ly­ing in ware­houses, ac­cord­ing to trade body

through which food from restau­rants and their sup­pli­ers can be sold to mem­bers of the pub­lic.

Some food whole­salers, in­clud­ing Brakes, have be­gun sell­ing di­rect to shop­pers via home de­liv­ery but most are not set up for trad­ing in this way.

“No­body wants this stuff to be thrown away,” said An­drew Kuyk, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Pro­vi­sion Trade Fed­er­a­tion trade body, “but there is no magic bul­let.” He said sup­pli­ers and whole­salers were look­ing at a va­ri­ety of so­lu­tions de­pend­ing on the type of food they worked with and their lo­ca­tion.

The FWD is call­ing for some form of tax re­lief on stocks it says can­not be sold.

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