Wholesalers have warned that increased bank charges could send them under.

Banks have pushed up charges to levels they are unable to cope with financially, wholesalers report.

One wholesaler said he was facing total bank charge increases, not including interest, of £30,000.

His bank wanted to increase the company's overdraft arrangement fee from 0.75% a year to 1.75% per half-year. Interest rates would increase from the base rate plus 1.5% to the base rate plus 3.75%, while account management charges would increase by 1,000%.

"This is enough to make us want to pack up and go and, given the current economic climate, we may well do," the wholesaler said. He was now in negotiation with other banks in a bid to bring the charges down.

The whole industry was concerned about banking terms, added another leading wholesale figure.

"Everyone is anticipating tougher credit terms - not just the smaller wholesalers. I've heard it from prominent wholesalers in recent weeks," he said.

"Wholesale is well known for consolidation. In tough financial times like this, I would expect this to accelerate."

The banks could be looking to increase charges because their exposure to the sector had grown substantially in the past 18 months, said another leading wholesaler. He estimated new debt taken on by wholesalers of around £1.6bn, with Brakes, Palmer & Harvey McLane and Parfetts Cash & Carry increasing borrowings substantially.

"Borrowings are massively up and banks are realising they have a lot more risk in the sector," he said. "The banks need to recover some profit, so they're getting this from whoever they can have a go at."

But the worst was yet to come as more wholesalers sought to renew banking facilities, predicted the MD of a leading wholesaler.

"This is the first of what I would consider to be many instances over the next six months as the banks look to profiteer and improve their financial positions to the detriment of small businesses," he said.