Driza-Bone sales slump in drought

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The Independent Online

It is the waxed raincoat worn by generations of Australian farmers. But the Driza-Bone is at risk because of the six-year drought in the world's driest inhabited continent.

The full-length waterproof coat is the closest thing Australia has to national dress. Driza-Bones featured in the opening of the 2000 Sydney Olympics and were worn by leaders including Prime Minister John Howard, left, to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Sydney last month.

But the Brisbane-based manufacturer has halved its workforce in an attempt to keep the business afloat in Australia. Driza-Bone is also diversifying into other clothing as it adjusts to the change in climate. The nation is in the grip of its worst drought and exports have also been hit by the high value of the Australian dollar.

Rod Williams, the chief executive of Driza-Bone, said: "I have seen a steady decline in the actual numbers of coats that the bush needs. So I guess we are having to adjust, like a lot of the farmers that are adjusting to what sorts of crops they plant, or what sort of livestock they carry." He added: "I'm assuming that it's going to be a dry continent going forward. We will become a less weather-dependent brand."

Mr Williams said that Driza-Bone, which has been making the coats since 1898, had shed 27 jobs to avoid moving production overseas, which would have sparked a national outcry.

He added: "We have been hanging on for a few years, hoping that we would get torrential rain and the dice would turn, but it hasn't been the case."