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Food supply chain to hospitals, care homes, schools and prisons on brink of collapse, wholesalers warn

Food wholesalers have warned the Chancellor that their supply chain to hospitals, care homes, schools and prisons is on the brink of collapse due to restrictions on pubs and restaurants.

Forcing customers to leave eating and drinking venues at 10pm, combined with reduced demand for hospitality services due to social distancing, has put unsustainable pressure on the industry, the Federation Of Wholesale Distributors and Food and Drink Federation argue.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, they are now calling for urgent financial support for wholesalers to prevent “mass redundancies” and “immediate risk” to public sector supply chains.

They want the Government to extend the furlough scheme to Tier and 3 areas, where the tightest restrictions are in place; extend business rates relief to wholesalers; and provide grants for supply chain businesses in Tier 2 and 3 areas, as they are unable to close because they serve the public sector.

These three steps will help avoid a “cliff edge of job losses” which will cause irreparable damage, they say.

“The food and drink wholesale sector must be supported to mitigate this unacceptable scenario. The above measures are essential to ensure continuity of critical public sector food and drink supply and the Government must introduce them immediately,” the letter says.

Local lockdowns are currently determined by a three-tier ‘traffic light’ system.

In areas marked as Tier 2, certain businesses selling food or drink on their premises are required to close between 10pm and 5am.

Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-thru

In Tier 3 areas, pubs and bars must close, and can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant – which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal.

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