More than 50 MPs have joined the Federation of Wholesale Distributors' (FWD) call for food and drink wholesalers to receive the same government support as their hospitality sector customers.
In a cross-party letter to the chancellor Rishi Sunak, 31 parliamentarians say it is a ‘clear anomaly' that food and drink wholesalers are not eligible for the business rates relief and other measures available under the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF).
A further 21 MPs have written independently to the chancellor to echo the request for inclusion.
The letter says: "This sector, which is crucial in supplying food, drink and household items to rural areas and critical public services such as care homes, hospitals, and schools, faces a crisis on a scale never seen before.
"A very significant proportion of the businesses in the sector do not qualify for the financial support schemes that the government has made available and they are not in a position to take out loans."
Foodservice wholesalers have seen a 70%-80% loss of business during lockdown, with some trading as much as 95% down.
A Defra survey of FWD members found that nearly 50% of respondents, all of whom have a turnover of £45m or less, are in danger of going into liquidation by the end of the year.
Among the signatories are former Conservative party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and former Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Mr McDonnell is also among a number of MPs who have tabled parliamentary questions asking the chancellor if he will extend the hospitality, retail and leisure grants to the wholesale food and drink sector.
FWD chief executive James Bielby said: "There is widespread recognition among parliamentarians that, as an integral part of the machinery of economic growth, wholesalers need the same support as the restaurants, pubs, hotels and workplace caterers they supply and support.
"Without significant support for its distribution network, our members' customers cannot recover as quickly as they or the Treasury would wish, which will delay economic regeneration, at a cost of job losses and business failures. Immediate investment in the supply chain is essential for the smooth and swift recovery of the hospitality sector."
Photo: Flickr – HM Treasury