Meat and food industry calls on Government to support hospitality suppliers
Trade associations across the meat and food sectors have called on Government to support suppliers to the hospitality and events industries following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The group, led by the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), has written to the chancellor and other Government ministers, stating that businesses within these sectors face an economic “cliff edge” without urgent support.
The letter adds that whilst pubs, restaurants and cafes have all received support from Government, the companies that supply them have not.
BFFF chief executive, Richard Harrow, says that they first raised the issue with ministers in May of last year and that seven months later, many of the food producers are on the verge of going out of business, leaving many pubs, care homes, restaurants and hospitals with no one to supply them when the economy emerges from the pandemic.
The letter has been supported by 18 trade associations, including the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and the Provision Trade Federation (PTF).
The group has called for the following steps to be actioned immediately:
- Extend the 12-month Local Authority Business Rates exemption to businesses supplying into the hospitality and foodservice market, using the existing legislative exemption for hardship.
- Put in place on-going capital and tax break allowances to maintain the workforce, prorated depending on how many staff a company can 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.
Richard Harrow continued: “England’s national lockdown, plus restrictions in the UK’s other nations, have been devastating for our many businesses supplying the hospitality and foodservice and they are facing a bleak winter.
“Many of the ‘squeezed middle’ are often successful family-owned SMEs and are now facing collapse. Support for this important sector is vital to ensure they continue to manufacture and supply world leading products, making the market so dynamic and vibrant. Their continued existence will be critical as the economy starts to recover.
“Those businesses in the ‘squeezed middle’ have not been given the same level of Government assistance as the businesses they supply, despite being as hard hit by the restrictions.”
Tony Goodger of AIMS added: “Our members are among many businesses supplying the complete range of food, drink and non-food items into the hospitality sector.
“For nearly a year now well established companies that were viable prior to the pandemic have seen their businesses come to almost a state of complete closure.
“In Scotland and Wales support packages are available for this supply chain but not in England? This basic unfairness must now be corrected if we are to see the hospitality industry and those who supply it come out of the pandemic in a position to trade and help in the economic recovery”
Angela Coleshill, director general of PTF, said: “The so-called ‘Squeezed Middle’ characterised by small and medium-sized businesses supplying into the out of home and hospitality sector is an absolutely essential part of the whole food chain. It would be impossible to imagine that our vibrant and hugely successful hospitality sector could bounce back in the way that it will need to (likely at very short notice) without the certainty of supply. It is incredible that the financial support provided to hospitality cannot be extended to its vital suppliers who continue to be hugely impacted by ongoing restrictions; they provide the very backbone to our treasured hospitality sector.
“Being overlooked in this way may have its root cause in a lack of understanding of the supply chain or indeed a failure to make a strong enough case. Either way, as the weeks and months go by the very viability of some of these long established businesses is under threat without much needed recognition including the extension of financial support available to pubs, restaurants and cafes (the direct consumer-facing parts of the supply chain).
“This letter to the Chancellor is not delivered lightly and has the benefit of being rooted in a strong evidence base and compelling insight on the importance of this part of the supply chain.”