Brewers face crisis over £10m theft of beer kegs

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Related tags: Brewing, Steel

by Tony Halstead Soaring metal prices have led to a surge in the number of stolen beer kegs this year, according to the country's biggest container...

by Tony Halstead

Soaring metal prices have led to a surge in the number of stolen beer kegs this year, according to the country's biggest container refurbishment company, Mor-row Brothers.

The scrap metal value of kegs has meant thieves have begun to break into pubs for their kegs rather than cash in the till.

The company claims that as many as 250,000 kegs, worth £10m, could have gone missing in the past seven months, many of them illegally exported to China via Eastern Europe.

One unnamed brewer claims to have lost 50% of its kegs, with another brewer claiming it is £6.6m out of pocket.

Stainless steel kegs are proving an attractive commodity for metal thieves who crush, fragment and bail the containers before selling them for scrap.

Trade association Kegwatch, which represents 300 UK brewers and suppliers, admits losses have increased this year. But the association says it needs to investigate Morrow's claims in detail before confirming the scale of the crisis.

Spokesman Brian Beswick said a shortage of stainless steel and higher metal prices had led to more containers going missing.

'We are disturbed by some of these claims and a number of brewers have also expressed disquiet about some of the figures being bandied about, he said.

'The number of stolen or missing kegs has increased this year as the value of metal has risen and also because supply of stainless steel is not meeting demand.

Beswick said Kegwatch had originally been set up to limit the number of lost containers and had established a nationwide monitoring system.

'The industry thought it had come up with a solution with the advent of stainless steel kegs because, unlike aluminium, thieves needed very high-temperature equipment to smelt them, he explained.

'But now they are crushing, fragmenting and bailing them instead.

Containers disappearing out of the pub supply system has always been a problem, and costs the brewing industry millions of pounds each year.

A 50-litre stainless steel container has a scrap value of about £8 but costs a brewer up to £50 to purchase new.

Many crushed kegs eventually end up in China where there is an acute shortage of metal.

Related topics: Beer

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