Wholesalers stuck with unwanted food

London, UK: There is an estimated £20m of meat, fruit and vegetables in storage by food wholesalers unable to supply restaurants that have closed as part of measures to contain coronavirus.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors is calling on government to help with some form of tax relief on stock that cannot be sold.

James Bielby, the chief executive, Federation of Wholesale Distributors, whose members include 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 for retail sale.

Bielby said most wholesalers’ stock was also not appropriate for food banks, and the vast majority of care homes and hospitals were already being supplied by food wholesalers and 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 vulnerable people isolated at home during the crisis. But these parcels contain packaged foods such as soup, pasta and milk rather than fresh produce.

Some food wholesalers have begun selling direct to shoppers via home delivery but most are not set up to trade this way.

“Nobody wants this stuff to be thrown away,” said Andrew Kuyk, director general, Provision Trade Federation. He said suppliers and wholesalers were looking at a variety of solutions depending on the type of food they worked with and their location. Some food processors and wholesalers may be able to work together to repackage goods for retail. But he warned: “A lot of those [wholesalers] are potentially going bust.”

Bielby said: “Commercial hospitality demand cannot be replaced by selling to consumers. Their model is built around high volumes.”


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