Toilet paper back on the shelves, but is beer in danger?

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With some degree of normalcy returning to supermarket shelves – as a result of restrictions on key items – panic buyers have again been out in force due to fresh fears of a lockdown.

This time it was not toilet paper that was foremost in the minds of consumers, but another Aussie essential – alcohol. People were queuing to get into bottle shops, with outlets such as Dan Murphy’s feeling the brunt of the demand.

Now, big brewers are warning that the country could run out of beer if they are not granted an exemption from mooted shutdown rules.

Australia’s biggest beer company, Carlton & United Breweries, and rival Lion say the nation could run out of their beer products for months if they are included in a shutdown of industry.  And if beer was not given exempt status, tens of thousands of jobs would be imperilled, further driving up the unemployment rate, which economists predict could hit 14 per cent. It currently sits at 5.3 per cent.

Both companies have said that major breweries could not be turned off and then restarted quickly, and if they were forced to close, then it would be up to three months before beer supplies could return to normal.

“Unfortunately, you can’t turn major breweries off and then quickly turn them back on,” said Carlton & United Breweries chief executive Peter Filipovic.

“If breweries are included in a widespread shutdown, we may not be able to get beer to the market for some months after re-opening.”

Brewers are also concerned about the ramifications if bottle shops are closed.

Lion Australia managing director James Brindley said Britain, Europe and the United States had all “kept retail and takeaway liquor going, and the supply chains behind them”.

Victoria and NSW premiers say only supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, freight and logistics, and home delivery will remain operational in a shutdown of non-essential activity.

Lockdowns would also be bad news for the hundreds of craft-beer brewers across Australia.

Have you stocked up on beer and other alcohol?

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Written by Janelle Ward


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