A new £5 million fund has been launched to support food and drink wholesalers to the hospitality, on-trade and public sectors.

The Scottish Wholesale Food and Drink Resilience Fund will be open to firms whose sales have fallen by 20 per cent or more since March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It will cover fixed costs for a six-month period from October 2020, such as business rates, rent, loan repayments, utilities and insurance payments, plus specific costs such as the loss of stock.

The launch of the fund follows months of lobbying by the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA).

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Colin Smith, chief executive of the SWA, said: “The Scottish Wholesale Association is delighted that food and drink wholesalers, who are the ‘wheels to Scotland’s food and drink industry’, have been given this vital lifeline. This support package will help secure many family businesses and SMEs across the length and breadth of the country – some having lost up to 95% of their income.

“While the sector still faces significant challenges, as many of our hospitality and tourism customers remain closed or restricted, this funding will make a huge difference to the survival of many SWA members, protecting food supplies into our 5,000 local convenience stores but especially into our hospitals, care homes, prisons and schools.”

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Although the fund will potentially give security of employment to up to 6,000 staff, Mr Smith conceded that £5m “won’t necessarily give the full support required by everyone”. The SWA will continue working with the Scottish Government to ensure members get the financial and other business support they need, he said.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Many of the wholesalers serving the hospitality sector that have been particularly badly hit are the same wholesalers we rely on getting food to rural and remote areas, as well as ensuring continuity of public sector food provision.

“It is paramount these businesses are able to continue operating and ready to support the hospitality sector as it recovers.”