The switch to central distribution by multiples in the Irish Republic threatens 6,000 jobs among suppliers in the I£5bn grocery trade, according to a report by an Irish parliamentary committee. The report, prepared by the state-funded National Institute of Transport and Logistics (NITL), says that Tesco, Dunnes, Musgrave and Superquinn are now requiring firms to deliver to central depots, instead of the traditional system of serving individual outlets, which was more profitable for suppliers. It predicts that, as the new system is fully implemented, employment among suppliers will be cut from 25,000 to around 19,000. "Centralised distribution is the most serious strategic challenge to face Irish grocery suppliers in 20 years," says NITL director Randall Faulkner, author of the report. "Most worryingly, no one is helping the suppliers face up to the marketplace muscle of the multiples." The parliamentary committee is assessing the impact of central distribution as part of an overall examination of the retail trade. It will note the report's warning that a key disadvantage for suppliers in the new system is that they could be bypassed as it becomes more economical for supermarket groups to source from abroad. In addition, says the report, the system carries the risk that rural areas could lose out because of the cost of transporting goods to isolated parts of the country. Mr Faulkner expresses concern that, despite the likely impact of centralised distribution on Irish suppliers, no strategic planning has taken place to prepare for the change. He suggests a training and development programme to help suppliers and staff adjust to the new situation. Members of the parliamentary committee, due to discuss the report shortly, are expected to press for urgent action along those lines. {{NEWS }}