Crisp closure for Smith’s chip plant

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Kim MacdonaldThe West Australian

American food giant PepsiCo is shutting its Smith’s chips factory in Canning Vale, putting up to 300 people out of work and slashing a fifth of potato sales from WA farmers.

Staff were told this morning The Smith’s Snackfood Company would close its doors mid to late next year after more than 30 years in operation.

The company’s South Australian and Queensland facilities would not be affected by the restructure.

It remains unclear where WA’s supply of Smith’s chips will come from once Canning Vale shuts, and how local potato growers who supply about 12,000 tonnes of spuds a year will be compensated.

Ross Taylor, the executive director of the Potato Growers Association of WA, said it was a devastating blow to the local industry, which relied on the food giant for about a fifth of all local sales.

The 300 workers have a range of roles from the factory floor to administration. A spokeswoman for company conceded there were limited opportunities for redeployment.

“Following a strategic review of its manufacturing operations across Australia, The Smith’s Snackfood Company has announced its intention to close its manufacturing facility at Canning Vale in Western Australia,” a Smith’s spokeswoman said in a statement.

“At this point it is anticipated the site will close in mid to late 2016.

“The company’s recently-upgraded oat milling facility located in Forrestfield, Western Australia, which exports significant volumes of oats to Asia, is not affected by this change.

“The Smith’s Snackfood Company is one of a handful of companies that continues to manufacture the majority of its products locally in Australia, and to use Australian raw materials like potatoes and corn.

“The Company is committed to Australian production and will invest in upgrading its manufacturing capability at its other plants within Australia to cover production requirements. Our current contractual agreements with our local agricultural suppliers will also remain unaffected.

“This difficult decision was made with careful consideration, and The Smiths Snackfood Company will provide outplacement services and redundancy support to affected employees.”

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