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Australia's biggest brewers are warning the country could run out of beer for three months if the industry is included in a shutdown

Business Insider Australia logo Business Insider Australia 22/03/2020 Simon Evans, AFR

a cup of coffee and a glass of beer on a table Australia's biggest beer company, Carlton & United Breweries, and its large rival Lion are both worried that the nation could run out of beer for three months if their breweries are included in a shutdown of industry.

The companies both said late on Sunday that major breweries couldn't 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 once their plants were up and running again.

CUB makes Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught and Crown Lager, and operates the Abbotsford brewery in Melbourne and the Yatala brewery in Queensland.

Pictures: Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak around Australia

Lion, which makes brands including XXXX Gold and Tooheys, warned of the consequences of a shutdown of large breweries if they weren't declared an essential service.

Lion Australia managing director James Brindley said there could be a three-month shortage, depending on whether breweries were deemed non-essential.

“You can’t turn off and then quickly turn back on major breweries like Tooheys,'' Mr Brindley said.

"After re-opening, there could be up to three months of no beer for pubs or bottle shops because it takes that long to grow the quantity of yeast needed,'' he said.

Lion said it was ''very concerned'' if takeaway liquor and their supply chains are closed.

"Our breweries are 100 percent able to operate under strict health and safety rules,'' he said.

Mr Brindley said Britain, Europe and the United States had all ''kept retail and takeaway liquor going, and the supply chains behind them”.

CUB vice-president of corporate affairs Julian Sheezel said on Sunday that the company was ''greatly concerned about no beer being available in Australia for at least three months if beer is not given exempt status, and what this would mean for tens of thousands of jobs''.

The concerns come after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said earlier on Sunday that the state would implement a shutdown of all non-essential activity over the next 48 hours.

NSW is planning similar measures, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying only supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, freight and logistics, and home delivery will remain operational.

"In these incredibly uncertain times people need some normality in their lives. They need to be able to access beer and other liquor at bottle shops,'' Mr Sheezel said.

"You can’t turn major breweries off and then quickly turn them back on. After re-opening there could be three months of no beer for pubs and bottle shops,'' he said.

Britain and some other countries had allowed retail and takeaway alcohol to keep operating while shutting other industries. CUB wants governments in Australia to ensure the brewing industry is exempt from widespread shutdowns.

CUB said most liquor is sold through outlets owned by Coles or Woolworths, with many liquor stores in the same shopping precinct as the supermarkets, and use the same delivery providers.

This story originally appeared in the Australian Financial Review. Read the original story here.

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