The Fresh Produce Consortium has warned Defra of the “catastrophic” effects of coronavirus on the foodservice and wholesale industries.
The worldwide Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to hit the global economy as social distancing measures and movement limits in European countries see retail, leisure and hospitality businesses either closing or without customers.
Suppliers for these industries are facing a real struggle to find buyers for their stock, with footfall dropping for many wholesalers and fruit and veg traders.
In a letter to Defra, the FPC wrote: 'We are seeking your support for the UK fresh produce industry, in particular, wholesalers and foodservice businesses supplying fresh fruit, vegetables, cut flowers and plants to the hospitality and public sectors and the current impacts of the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19). This sector supplies over 35 per cent of UK fresh produce.'
'The drop in footfall at restaurants, bars and clubs, cessation of flights and cruises, and all kinds of events is resulting in cancellation of orders for wholesalers and foodservice businesses. The decision of the Scottish Government to stop large public events is an additional factor for several of our members, and an indication of further impacts to come in due course across the UK.
'For many businesses this immediate loss of orders is catastrophic as they have little or no opportunity to secure new business, resulting in an immediate impact on their cash flow and a threat to job security in this sector.”
Andy Weir, head of customer engagement at one of Britain’s largest catering and foodservice suppliers, Reynolds, said: “We are seeing a shift in demand from one sector to another, where foodservice is undoubtedly quieter and retail is buoyant.
“There will be an effect on workplace supply and the lunchtime trade will also be hit. Restaurants and hotels will also see fewer guests, supplying to the healthcare market is unaffected.”
Weir continued: “The biggest challenge for foodservice will be managing stock levels, but so far we are not seeing major issues in non-availability of stock.
'The key focus is making sure our employees are safe and have access to sanitising facilities and, where possible, people can work from home.
'Our workers are pulling together and we have ramped up our return to work policy for those who have been abroad.”