Australia’s food and grocery manufacturing industry is working around the clock, keeping supermarket shelves stocked with Australians in nearly every corner of the country needed to turn up to work to ensure supply.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has said that as cases increase, the existing COVID-19 rules will not work for the industry. With shifts of people being told to stay home to quarantine, having been deemed a close or casual contact, food and grocery supplies will be increasingly disrupted – the same volumes of products cannot be made or distributed to supermarkets and through other channels with workers at home.
Industry is currently keeping up supply, but AFCG is concerned about the coming months once community transmission of COVID-19 increases. If staff cannot attend work, then there could be an impact, especially on products that have a short shelf life, AFGC CEO Tanya Barden said.
“We need to ensure that close or casual contacts who are double vaccinated and return a negative PCR test can return to work,” she said.
“There is already pressure in supply chains, with lots of staff in quarantine due to being deemed close contacts. This could have an impact on product availability.
“The next few months is when the industry normally builds stock ahead of Christmas, and it is expected this will be a strong Christmas trade if lockdowns have ended.”
In the UK, there was a significant workforce impact when they opened the economy as many staff members were deemed close contacts and had to quarantine even though they were vaccinated. This led to significant product shortages.
“We are told that governments are working on this matter, but we are yet to see anything that gives the industry comfort,” Barden said.
“We are calling on state governments to get behind their industries and to help suppliers keep the shelves stocked.”
In Australia, food and grocery manufacturers make or lightly transform everything from toilet paper to your favourite lockdown chocolate to ready meals and bag salads, fruit juice to cheese and cold cut meats.
Support must be given to the Australians who go to work to ensure this supply, to keep products flowing to all Australians everyday, as well as communities sustained and local economies going.