Led by the Covent Garden Tenants Association (CGTA), London’s three leading wholesale markets – New Covent Garden Market, New Spitalfields Market and Western International Market - have written to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor calling for urgent financial assistance to save the hospitality and food service supply chain.
London’s wholesale traders, who feed the capital via its out-of-home outlets and beyond, will be instrumental as the city starts to re-open and thrive post lockdown. However, with trade currently down 80-90 per cent these businesses hang in the balance.
On behalf of all of London’s wholesale markets, CGTA chairman Gary Marshall, has written to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak (see full letter below) on the back of a letter from Richard Harrow of the British Frozen Food Federation on 15 January, which similarly called for financial support measures to be extended to the food supply sector.
In the letter Marshall echoed this sentiment saying: “Most of the support monies provided by the UK Government has gone to the consumer facing part of the industry, such as restaurants and supermarket. With the exception of the welcomed furlough monies little or none of this money has reached us.”
The CGTA represents the traders at London’s iconic New Covent Garden Market who supply the capital’s top restaurants right through to workplace canteens, hospitals and schools. The Market’s traders supply the majority of fresh produce eaten out of home in the capital and traders across London’s wholesale markets have been feeding London and the South East for generations.
The group of London wholesale markets have called for local authority business rates exemption to be extended to the hospitality and foodservice market, as well as ongoing capital and tax break allowances to be put in place to enable them to maintain the workforce.
The CGTA has also called for grants for those companies that have had to dispose of fresh short life stock as a result of short notice tiered and lockdown restrictions. The CGTA is also pushing for permission for wholesale flower markets to safely open for in-person trade only customers, in time for the Mother’s Day trade, which is the largest date in the floristry calendar.
The letter continued: “We are job creators and offer some of the more disadvantaged in our local communities the chance to learn and develop new skills that are needed for the long-term sustainability of the sector. At New Covent Garden Market alone we employ over 2,500 local people, although sadly many have now been made redundant or remain on furlough.”
Commenting on the letter, Marshall said: “The way the government have managed business rates relief due to Covid is quite simply unfair and unjust. Pubs, restaurants, hotels have received support and rightly so, they like all the hospitality industry are struggling. But the supermarkets, who are busier than ever with every trading week literally booming with record sales and profit, have all received business rates relief yet we haven’t. That can’t be right. We are the suppliers of all those pubs, restaurants and hotels and without further Government support I fear that many wholesale businesses won’t be here to support the UK in re-opening it’s hospitality sector and to help London thrive once again.
"Urgent action needs to be taken immediately before these largely family-run businesses collapse. For the sake of all horticultural wholesale markets in the UK I am calling on the government to do the right thing and level the playing field.”
Please see below for a full copy of the letter written by CGTA’s chairman, Gary Marshall, on behalf of all of London’s wholesale markets.
Dear Prime Minister,
You received a letter dated 15th January, 2021 from Mr. Richard Harrow, Chief Executive of British Frozen Foods. Mr. Harrow wrote on behalf of a number of Trade Bodies who represent those operating in the food service supply chain.
Today I am writing to you on behalf of London’s wholesale fresh produce markets to echo Mr. Harrow’s collective plea for urgent financial assistance for the hospitality food service supply chain. In order for there to be a viable food service supply chain that can deliver to the high standards required by London’s world leading hospitality sector, this support is needed right now.
Together we make up all of London’s iconic wholesale markets. As wholesale traders we have a long and very proud heritage of supplying the vast majority of London’s hospitality industry. Anyone who has dined out in London will have eaten our food and seen our flowers. We are critical to the hospitality supply chain, and supply restaurants, hotels, airlines, workplace canteens, cruise ships, events, grocers, butchers, fishmongers and florists. We also supply public sector schools, hospitals, care-homes and prisons.
We are job creators and offer some of the more disadvantaged in our local communities the chance to learn and develop skills that are needed for the long-term sustainability of the sector. At New Covent Garden Market alone we employ over 2,500 local people, although sadly many have now been made redundant or remain on furlough.
Traders across London’s wholesale markets are family run businesses, experts in our fields and have been supplying London, the South East and beyond for generations. Many of us offer niche, premium produce and unbeatable personalised service that is not available to the best in the hospitality sector through larger suppliers.
For most of us trade is down by 80% – 90% and we cannot sustain this as many are at the point of collapse. In order to survive and be here to help London re-open and thrive we urgently need your support.
As Mr. Harrow said, most of the support monies provided by UK Government has gone to the consumer facing part of the industry, such as restaurants and supermarkets. With the exception of the welcomed furlough monies little or none of this money has reached us.
At this late stage we are not writing only because of the lack of fairness in the way Government monies have been directed. We are writing because for us this is real. We are on a cliff edge.
We kindly ask for the following to be put in place with immediate effect.
Extend the 12-month Local Authority Business Rates exemption to businesses supplying into the hospitality and food service market, using the existing legislative exemption for hardship.
Put in place ongoing capital and tax break allowances to maintain the workforce. These could be prorated depending on how many staff a company is able to keep employed.
Formalise the deferment of PAYE and NI payments until the end of 2021 for those in this sector, basing the final removal of that deferment on those businesses returning to a commercially viable level of operation.
Increase the level of funding for the Additional Restrictions Grant and make the application process clear and the funding accessible.
Provide grants for those companies that have had to dispose of fresh short life stock either through waste or charitable donations. These disposals have come about due to unplanned short notice restrictions related to lockdowns, that impact suppliers of perishable goods disproportionately.
Allow Wholesale Food Distributors to be exempt from the ULEZ charge until greener refrigerated food distribution vehicles are available.
Allow wholesale flower markets to safely open for in-person trade only customers in time for the Mother’s Day trade, the largest date in the floristry calendar.
I look forward to your response.