Food and beverage industry “heavily impacted” by gas crisis
The full extent of the likely impact on the WA food and beverage industry is still unknown, but the WA Food Industry Association (FIA) has reported that the industry has been “heavily impacted” by the gas explosion at Varanus Island.Harvey Beef, for example, is currently operating at two thirds of it’s production capacity as are large dairy processors, according to the FIA. Companies that operate fryers and other gas operated equipment are cut by over 30% and the only WA food grade CO2 supplier has also had to cease supply completely, which has impacted the pork and beverage industry.
Coca-Cola Amatil has also been forced to scale down operations at their Kewdale factory due to a shortage of carbon dioxide gas, but anticipate disruptions to supply to be only temporary.
Small business owners, struggling in the wake of the gas explosion, can now use a free hotline and on-line support to cope with the effects of the crisis, Small Business Minister Margaret Quirk announced yesterday.
Ms Quirk indicated that the direct and indirect effects of gas shortages have had an ongoing, adverse effect on many small businesses.
Small business centres in metropolitan and regional areas had advised that a number of businesses in their local areas were experiencing problems. “A Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA survey of members has also indicated that the incident is having a significant effect on Western Australian businesses and the economy,” the Minister said. “A number of businesses have scaled back operations and stood down staff and I understand that many small businesses will be affected by increased costs passed on by suppliers and a drop in consumer spending.”
“I would encourage all small business owners affected by the current situation to take advantage of the free service set up through the Small Business Development Corporation.”
The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry considers the gas outage to be “the most significant challenge to WA business and the local economy in recent years”, with the livelihood of many businesses threatened by the loss of up to a third of the state’s gas supply.
Ms Quirk also warned that the scaling down of operations by major companies could have a flow on effect for small business. “Large companies shutting down their operations and laying off workers could mean fewer consumer dollars circulating to local small businesses, particularly in regional towns,” Ms Quirk advised. “Taking advantage of the new hotline and on-line support can lessen the impact of changes to businesses in these current circumstances.”
Ms Quirk said a priority schedule, recently developed for the allocation of the limited energy resources, was based on the need to protect the health, safety and property of the community, minimise broad community disruption and minimise economic impact.
The Office of Energy is holding a special briefing for the food and beverage industry today and other energy avenues are being sourced to free up gas for industry.
The freecall hotline – 1800 199 125 – is open Monday to Friday between 8.15am and 5.15pm, and people can access online support at http://www.sbdc.com.au.