The UK’s Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) has written to George Eustice, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asking for support for businesses which supply fresh produce beyond the major high street retailers.
The letter, penned by Chief Executive, Nigel Jenney states: “Many wholesale and foodservice businesses are keen to maintain their on-going operations and to support independent retailers with supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as continuing to provide supplies to the public sector, during the national lockdown.
“In any lockdown many consumers are solely reliant on the independent retail outlets and street markets. With the UK Government’s announcement that certain retail businesses such as garden centres can remain open from 5 November, we request that businesses supplying cut flowers and plants which are able to meet the social distancing requirements are included.
“These businesses supply similar if not the same products as garden centres. Some of these businesses are located on markets and are able to adhere to social distancing requirements, serving only business customers such as florists, not members of the public. Many members who supply plants and cut flowers had to close their doors to customers in the previous national lockdown, despite continuing demand, for example to supply products for funerals.
“Within the same markets there are businesses which supply fresh fruit and vegetables, some of which have been able to continue to trade by adapting their business models to supply direct to UK consumers. It is essential for them to survive as they supply 35% of all fruit and vegetables in the UK.
“All of these businesses, supplying fresh fruit, vegetables, cut flowers and plants, face on-going challenges with the continued closure of the hospitality and food service sector, their key customer base. Whilst the massive impact on the hospitality sector has been recognised, we are concerned that those businesses, often SMEs, who supply into this sector are being overlooked.
“It is critical for central government to provide financial support for businesses across the supply chain and for urgent acceptance of businesses in the floral/plant sector beyond garden centres to continue to trade.
"We request your urgent assistance," the letter concludes.
In a further move to support suppliers, FPC have created On Your Doorstep, a free to use online platform for suppliers that connects them with local customers in their area. The initiative is part of FPC's ongoing efforts to keep the supply chain flowing during these times of unprecedented challenge.