Ministers 'must back hospitality suppliers' in sector reboot

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

'When pubs, bars and restaurants closed, their suppliers’ market evaporated overnight'
'When pubs, bars and restaurants closed, their suppliers’ market evaporated overnight'

Related tags: Supply chain, Finance

The Government must recognise the impact of the hospitality sector's shutdown on its suppliers, and act urgently to support the supply chain, according to a House of Commons committee report.

Noting the greater risks for small businesses, the document from the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee calls on ministers to provide additional funding to food and drink wholesalers and suppliers serving the hospitality industry.

Such suppliers had not received the level of financial support offered to the pubs, bars and cafes that relied on them, the report stresses.

The paper follows the publication of the Committee's July 2020 COVID-19 and Food Supply​ report. It analyses the six months from August 2020, in which the hospitality sector was subject to two national lockdowns and an array of local restrictions.

Food poverty

Addressing the food supply chain and food insecurity, the report also highlights the almost one in ten households who have, during the two most recent national lockdowns, experienced food poverty. It again urges the Government to appoint a new minster for food security and consult on a national 'right to food' in England.

"When pubs, bars and restaurants closed, their suppliers’ market evaporated overnight," ​said Neil Parish, MP and chair of the Select Committee. "They have worked admirably to pivot to new customers, but many businesses, particularly small ones, are struggling to survive. We are all looking forward to hospitality beginning to re-open on Monday ​[12 April], but the reality is that without support for their suppliers, many venues may struggle.

"The Government must act now to provide additional help for suppliers. If its supply chain collapses the money the hospitality sector has received to get them through lockdown will have been wasted.

"There must also be recognition of the tremendous momentum gathered during the crisis to keep the most vulnerable in our society fed. This must be sustained. For the second time in a year, our Committee urge the Government to appoint a new minister to address food security in the UK."

The Committee recommends:

  • In anticipation of hospitality reopening on 12 April, the Government must urgently recognise the impact of the sector's closure on its suppliers. Additional financial support should be provided to hospitality suppliers, particularly small businesses, during the period of reopening. 
  • The Government should provide ongoing support to charities working to distribute surplus food from the farm gate to frontline food aid providers.
  • With the number of people experiencing food insecurity likely to have worsened because of lockdowns, the Government should conduct an annual food security report, sustaining this frequency until the combined economic fallout of COVID-19 and Brexit has passed.
  • A new minister for food security should be appointed to work cross-departmentally, ensuring that everyone, and especially the most vulnerable, has access to enough affordable nutritious food. The Government must also consult on a legal 'right to food' in its White Paper responding to the National Food Strategy​, due early this summer.
  • In the event of another lockdown, the Government should ensure that families with children eligible for free school meals continue to be able to feed their children. The report also calls on the Government to learn from the unacceptable food parcels provided by some suppliers in January, and ensure that 'any future offering is consistently up to standard'.
  • The Government must call on retailers to 'recognise their responsibility' to assist clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people to access food if advised to shield, including the removal of delivery charges and minimum online spends for them.
  • The report also raises concerns about people with disabilities who are unable to access online food delivery, recommending that Government ensures they receive the assistance they need. Retailers must also ensure that efforts to make their stores 'COVID secure' do not exclude people with disabilities. 

Related topics: Supply Chain, COVID-19

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