Local mask maker forgotten as buyers go back to imports

One of the examples of local manufacturing resilience highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic has seen staff numbers and orders dwindle as hospitals return to imported suppliers, according to a report.

The ABC reported on Tuesday that Shepparton’s Med-Con went from 150 staff at its peak to 25 now. At the beginning of last year, it was the country’s only maker of medical facemasks — contributing an estimated 5 per cent of total supply — and ramped up production to meet demand.

With machinery specialist Foodmach, Med-Con installed 10 new machines and lifted capacity with help from Australian Defence Force engineers over March and April last year. Annual capacity went from 2 million and reached 160 million late-last year. Currently, only two of their machines are needed. 

In May, former industry minister Karen Andrews used Med-Con in a National Press Club Address as a case study of the innovation and adaptability of local manufacturing.

CEO Steven Csiszar said that health services buyers have gone back to overseas suppliers since the supply squeeze of the pandemic.

“They seem to have lost the concept that if we have another pandemic in a few years and borders shut again, they’re going to be reliant on local manufacturers,” Csiszar told the ABC.

“But as a manufacturer you’ve got to think to yourself, ‘Do I want to keep doing this?'”

Local suppliers of masks have increased from just Med-Con to about ten since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Picture: www.medcon.com.au

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