Peter Newton, general manager of Cheetham Salt, one of the largest suppliers of pool salt to the Australian market, says he cannot determine when the current shortage in the eastern states will end.
“Like many other manufacturers, Cheetham Salt has experienced a range of supply chain challenges in recent months that have impacted supply,” says Newton.
“Major pallet shortages nationally, floods in Queensland and New South Wales, and reduced truck driver availability have all impacted our supply chain. In addition, we have been impacted by localised flooding in South Australia at one of our manufacturing sites.”
He says other factors include labour shortages due to the low unemployment level and covid absenteeism, which have impacted output at their factories and further compromised the supply of pool salt.
“The ongoing La Nina weather pattern along with recent flooding on the east coast of Australia has resulted in exceptionally high demand for pool salt this season,” he says.
“Based on the long-range weather forecast we anticipated that the 2021/2022 season would be strong, and built a significant inventory position of finished product prior to the start of the season. This ensured good supply of Cheetham pool salt early in the season, but as we entered 2022 the exceptionally high demand combined with the covid-related supply challenges has resulted in the pool salt shortage.”
He adds that the current weather system is not having a significant impact on salt production at their sites – that is, the actual growing of salt – and that the shortage is mainly due to the factors mentioned above.
Despite these challenges, he says the supply situation is slowly improving.
“However it is very difficult to predict when it will end.”
He adds that the pool salt market is a very important sector for Cheetham Salt and he apologises for the delays their customers are experiencing.
“We understand that pool salt performs an important function, and we are striving to satisfy the market demand as quickly as possible.”
Increased demand multiplies supply issues
The impact on the supply chain is doubling down on the increased demand due to covid-inspired demand for swimming pool usage, and the effect on pool water of the unprecedented wet weather on the east coast of Australia.
Many pool shops are having issues sourcing pool salt and are having to supply chlorine as a temporary replacement during these times, as many thousands of pools battle to come back from the impact of flooding and excessive rain.
Some retailers are also limiting the number of bags of salt that can be sold to individual customers.
David Dwyer, chief executive of Olsson’s Salt – another major supplier to the industry – told the ABC they are having trouble keeping up.
“It’s not that we’re not manufacturing, we’re manufacturing at 100 per cent capacity, it’s just that the demand is massive,” he told the ABC, adding that the biggest concentration of swimming pools affected were between Bundaberg in Queensland and Newcastle in New South Wales, and that the current shortage was much worse and more widely spread in comparison to the shortages felt after the 2011 floods.
Of Australia’s estimated 1.2 million pools, about 850,000 are in New South Wales and Queensland. There are estimates as many as 70 per cent of those pools are disinfected via salt chlorination.
SPASA Australia CEO Lindsay McGrath says that the explosion in demand for pools during the covid-19 pandemic had put even more pressure on demand for salt and other pool chemicals, even prior to these east coast weather events.