Wholesalers have called on the government to ensure the sector is provided more support against theft.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP, James Bielby, chief executive of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) stressed the size of the sector and how it also needs protection from crime.

It said: “The food and drink wholesale sector in the UK is integral to the operation of 72,000 retailers and 350,000 caterers, the majority of which are small businesses. With approximately £10 billion-worth of trade passing through Cash-and-Carry depots, it has become commonplace for personal belongings and purchases, including bags of tobacco worth up to £5,000 to be stolen from customers in cash and carry car parks and then sold on the unrestricted black market.”

The FWD warned that the theft of these high-value items is costing legitimate wholesale business and the Exchequer and that while wholesalers have played their part by investing in crime prevention measures and providing CCTV footage, some cases are unpursued by the police.

Bielby said that incorporating wholesale into support for the retail sector will help support both individuals and businesses, and that improved police prioritisation of thefts at cash and carry premises is “vital”, as is continued funding for law enforcement measures in this area.

“FWD welcomes the launch of the Retail Crime Action Plan and the Government’s plans to introduce a Crime Bill in the King’s speech,” he said. “However, it is vital for the wholesale industry to be considered and represented in these plans to tackle crime.”

He also warned that proposed age restrictions on the purchase of tobacco could lead to increased crimes against wholesalers, driving black market sales to supply customers who are too young to buy tobacco legally.

As part of its ongoing commitment to support its wholesale members on this issue, FWD’s crime reporting system collates incidents to better monitor the rate and severity of these crimes. This follows a recent crime survey by FWD where 100% of wholesalers surveyed, representing 80% of the wholesale industry, identified crime as one of their foremost concerns, primarily attributed to inadequate police responsiveness.