Wallets stay shut in SW

Catherine MasseyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Managing Director of Ocean Grown Abalone Brad Adams. Photo: Russell Ord
Camera IconManaging Director of Ocean Grown Abalone Brad Adams. Photo: Russell Ord

Agriculture and hospitality businesses in Busselton are concerned a lack of demand and consumer spending will affect their viability after COVID-19.

The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry regional pulse statistics for July state two out of five businesses in the South West identify weak demand as the biggest barrier for growing their business over the coming year.

Agristart co-director Natasha Ayers said the not-for-profit organisation, supporting new agricultural businesses, had experienced access to markets and a decrease in consumer spending as the main barriers for farmers.

“Agriculture export markets are really hard to get access to at the moment, and also really expensive,” she said.

Ms Ayers said the JobKeeper subsidy was instrumental in keeping people employed.

“Without JobKeeper a lot of these small agricultural businesses would have to let staff go,” she said.

Ocean Grown Abalone managing director Brad Adams said demand was down because many international businesses were closed or operating under COVID-19 restrictions.

“Business over the last few months was suppressed but I’m seeing glimmers of life,” Mr Adams said.

“We’re starting to see more orders of product out, although in lower volumes than before.”

As WA enters the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, 57 per cent of businesses in the South West and Great Southern are suffering because of international border restrictions, and Mr Adams said a lack of export orders had severely affected his business, with recovery expected to take “a while”.

“Tourism has been affected largely, and that’s impacted on restaurant demand in the region from Asian customers,” he said.

The regional pulse survey reflects the attitudes of Capes business owners, who expect business conditions to worsen over the next year.

Fig Tree Lane Cafe director Julie Yeates said the July school holidays were expected to be busy, but the reality was much different, with visitors wary of excessive spending.

“Weak demand is our biggest barrier at the moment because people aren’t wanting to spend money,” she said.

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