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Coronavirus: Pubs, cafe and restaurant suppliers in Northern Ireland need help after losing 30% of their trade, says association

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Support call: Brian Irwin

Support call: Brian Irwin

Jason Clarke Photography

Support call: Brian Irwin

The food and drink sector has called on government to give grants to firms who have lost 30% of their trade due to the shutdown of the food service industry.

While retail sales have increased since lockdown was imposed, food and drink producers have lost out on substantial sales to restaurants, cafes, pubs and other businesses, such as workplace canteens.

NI Food and Drink Association chairman Brian Irwin said food companies had responded well to the challenges of implementing social distancing but had suffered cash flow and stock problems.

He said: "The Government needs to step up to the plate and support producers before it is too late.

"Support in the form of grants should be given to allow firms to invest further in automation, advanced manufacturing, innovation and skills."

He added the food service market had "all but disappeared" and that growth in demand from retail did not come close to making up the difference.

"It has been a seismic shock for the industry and inevitably manufacturers, many of them SMEs, now face serious stock and cash flow difficulties," Mr Irwin explained.

Meanwhile, figures from information company Kantar have shown a 13.9% increase in spending on groceries in Northern Ireland over the last three months.

Volume sales year on year were up 1.2% to £32.3m.

Belfast Telegraph