Tonnes of food could go to waste after school & hospitality closures

  • Watch a report by Rachel Hepworth

Wholesale food suppliers say that they have been left with mountains of food that isunder risk of going to waste because their customer base has gone – with the closureof schools, pubs and restaurants.

Many big food suppliers were advised to stock up on products ahead of Brexit, but now they have been left with tonnes of perishable foods that they can not sell or give away.

The companies are asking the government for the same help that was given to pubs and restaurants, to prevent them from going under.

The Managing Director of Harvest Fine Foods in Hampshire has explained that his warehouse at Totton in Hampshire is full of food that they can not shift. The firm usually supplies schools, care homes, hotels and restaurants. However, during the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns bulk buying has decreased drastically, and the firm’s takings are down.

Things are pretty desperate really. We've basically suffered a loss of about 80 percent of our revenue and trade, because primarily they've closed down the hospitality sector. We've got a 56 thousand square foot warehouse with a freezer the size of four tennis courts, it costs a lot of money to keep running.

Richard Strongman, MD Harvest Fine Foods

Items such as catering-sized packs of salmon, pallets of eggs and large packs of clotted cream are not easy to sell to the average domestic customer.

The firm adapted as the pandemic first took hold by putting health food boxes together for low-income families; donating to food banks; and selling direct to the public, but the sales are not enough to make up for the large-scale loss of income.

Richard Strongman says the company needs more assistance to keep going. The furlough scheme has helped, but 20 staff have already had to be laid off.

James Bielby, the Chief Executive of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD), says that the third lockdown has put businesses in a very difficult position and that they will have to continue trading at a loss for now… amid dwindling reserves.

He says that a lot of the food can not be repurposed for food banks and charities, but where possible it is happening and will continue to happen.

There’s a lot of stock on hand that has to essentially be thrown away because food banks can’t take it. What we want from the Government is some form of support for that stock, so £12 million worth of product - even if it is given away to charity, somebody has to pay for it and t’s really difficult to know where that money is going to come from.

When hospitality hopefully reopens in the Spring and beyond without a supply chain there to supply goods and food and drink to those businesses, there won’t be a hospitality channel. Supporting the end users is one thing but it doesn’t go far enough.

James Bielby, The Federation of Wholesale Distributors