Gas crisis prompts food fears

25 Jun, 2008 11:17 AM
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THE Food Industry Association (FIA) has called on the Government to increase its support to WA's food industry after this week's announcement that WA's gas supply could still be affected in December.

Apache Energy said its Vara-nus Island gas production plant would return to part production in August but would not be back up until full production until the end of the year.

FIA chief executive Andrea Berteit said the Government had underestimated the full extent of the impact of the gas shortage on WA's food industry.

Ms Berteit said the gas crisis was having a huge impact on all sectors of the food supply chain.

She said WA is at risk of losing valuable markets if the sec-tor was not given a higher priority.

"The food industry is coping well with the shortage consid-ering the extent of the problem, but the real concern is the long term effects it could have on WA processors and producers," Ms Berteit said.

"We are in danger of losing market share to eastern states' companies and this market share may not be recoverable.

"The industries affected by the crisis are losing a large amount of money each day and there is also a question of how long they can continue to bleed before they have to stop production."

Ms Berteit said the food industry had yet to be able to talk to Premier Alan Carpenter directly, although it had met with representatives from his office.

"The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) have been earmarked to represent the food industry, but their view is that no support is required," she said.

"They did not consult with us to form that viewpoint.

"We want to set it straight that there is an issue and the industry does need support. I do not believe the Government properly understands the extent of the pro-blem and how many parties, from producers to processors, are affected within the food supply chain."

Ms Berteit said the Government had heavily promoted the Buy West Eat Best campaign recently, but the crisis could cause more eastern states' products to be imported into WA.

"Dairy, fruit juice and meat processors have been affected to date," she said.

"In turn that affects the producers who supply to these processors.

"Retailers may be forced to import eastern states' products to satisfy market demands if they cannot source that product locally."

WAFarmers has called on Mr Carpenter to recognise the importance of agriculture to the state's population and ensure that food producers and processors are not left out in the cold during the gas crisis.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton said food production and processing sectors provided a fundamental service for all Western Australians and it would be benefit consumers, producers and Government if the sectors were sufficiently catered for in the crisis.

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