Bidfood warns public sector’s food supply at risk

London, UK: Bidfood and other wholesalers providing food for care homes, schools, hospitals and prisons have called for government support.

They also want business rates relief to be extended to the wholesale sector.

The wholesale sector has not been eligible for support offered to hospitality businesses affected by the government’s tiered system of Covid-19 restrictions.

Andrew Selley, chief executive of wholesaler Bidfood, said the industry had not been eligible for support offered to hospitality businesses affected by the government’s tiered system of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Our customers range from Michelin-starred chefs through to high street casual dining, cafes, restaurants, pubs, workplace, travel catering and all of those in areas that have been affected,” he said.

“But we also do schools, universities, care homes, hospices and prisons. That varies by wholesaler but it’s about 70% hospitality and 30% public sector. When 70% of your customer base is impacted, your income goes down significantly.

“Whilst we have some variable cost like the number of people picking and delivering, the public sector contracts require delivery to every postcode. There’s a limit to how much cost you can take out.

“Not all of the wholesalers will survive and that means disruption to supply. The thing that’s galling for us is that the wholesale sector and supply chains in general have had no sector-specific support.”

Wholesales have written to the chancellor Rishi Sunak to say that “Without the income from the commercial sector, the supply of food to institutions such as care homes, prisons, schools and hospitals is at immediate risk.”

“Wholesalers send specialist food to care homes and this cannot be replaced by deliveries from supermarkets,” said the Federation of Wholesale Distributors and the Food and Drink Federation.

“The same supply chain is also essential to the ongoing supply of food to primary and secondary schools for the provision of school meals.”

They urged Sunak to hand out discretionary grants and extend the furlough scheme to wholesalers in areas under tier 2 and 3 restrictions, to avoid supply warehouses closing.

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