The removal of COVID restrictions on 19 July in England will be a disaster for shops, pubs and restaurants unless the Government acts immediately to secure food deliveries, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) has warned.
The shortage of HGV drivers means that food and drink wholesalers are already struggling to reach all of their customers within a driver’s allotted shift, and with no reserve drivers available, they are having to choose which customers not to deliver to, reports the FWD. This situation will have a ‘massive impact’ on small businesses’ ability to meet the surge in demand after ‘Freedom Day’, the FWD adds.
The Federation of Wholesale Distributors says this crisis requires immediate action from Government, and suggests reintroducing last year’s temporary extension of drivers’ hours to prevent shortages of food and drink in harder-to-reach locations.
FWD chief executive James Bielby said: “We’re going to see less choice on menus and less food available in shops, certainly in rural areas or in coastal areas, because they’re more difficult to reach as the shortage of drivers impacts the whole supply chain. Goods coming into a wholesaler’s depot late, or a shorter delivery than was ordered, means that the people at the end of the line are less likely to be serviced. The delivery drivers just run out of hours.
“Allowing them a little flexibility to make deliveries to those stores will mean that people who live or are holidaying in places where there’s no other options for food will be able to be served.
“Throughout the whole of last year and up until March this year, drivers were able to go slightly longer and further in order to reach the extremities of the market. We need to bring that back.”
The FWD stresses that no one will go without food, but choice will be limited. “That’s a disaster for restaurants which are desperate to throw open their doors and start their recovery from the long closure. It’s a disaster for local shops, family-run independent stores, whose customers are not able to travel miles to the nearest supermarket. And it’s a disaster for the Government, which is pinning its hopes on an enormous economic boost from everyone getting out into those pubs and restaurants after July 19,” said Bielby.
“As we head towards Freedom Day, Boris Johnson is going to be insisting that people eat, drink and be merry and go out and enjoy themselves. That’s just not going to be possible if restaurants can’t get the food in because their wholesaler can’t reach them.”