Food wholesalers Plea for help over meat and veg mountain
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
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.