The Victorian government has taken action over fears of a shopping supply shortfall, offering a reprieve to keep supermarkets operating at full capacity.
The order from Premier Daniel Andrews to warehouses to cut their workforce by 33 per cent has caused panic among business chiefs who fear they will not be able to cope with consumer demand.
But Mr Andrews has now extended the timeline until Sunday night, with the new guidelines explaining “the number of workers can be reduced through any part of the supermarket business”, according to The Herald Sun.
The major supermarket chains will, in turn, ask more support staff to work from home and suspend stocktake activity, as well as asking the most vulnerable store workers to stay home with full pay.
It comes after a major supermarket warned about food shortages triggering panic buying across Australia, with reports shoppers could soon face renewed purchasing restrictions amid fears Victoria’s stage four coronavirus lockdown will severely disrupt supply chains.
One of the nation’s biggest supermarket operators issued a warning to Prime Minister Scott Morrison through the Supermarkets Taskforce, a group of retailers who joined together to manage food shortages as a result of the pandemic.
According to The Australian, the COVID-19 Commission advisory board had been urged to take it up with the Prime Minister amid concerns retailers interstate have been blindsided by the scale of the Victorian shutdown, and shortages of meat and other good could flow through to other states.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said today that Sydney was now being “tested” by the harsh lockdown in Melbourne which was likely to have flow on effects.
“I think a lot of our food supplies do emanate from Victoria, but, again, there’s a degree of each government having to be fleet-of-foot, if you like, and trying to respond to whatever problems come up,” he said on ABC News Breakfast Thursday morning.
“So in regard to our food supply, we’re now being tested on that, but we’ll find ways around it. The governments around the country will find ways around it. We’ll work together to make sure food supplies still get through.”
Mr Andrews has allowed the majority of meatworks, seafood processing facilities and fruit and vegetable wholesalers to remain open but at a reduced capacity that will impact supply.
Meatworks in particular have been the site of multiple COVID-19 outbreaks as they have been across the world.
“It is a proportionate response to the risk that that industry poses,” Mr Andrews said on Monday.
“I can’t guarantee that every single product at exactly the volumes that you might like to buy will be there, but there will be enough for people to get what they need, not necessarily what they want, but what they need,” he said.
The Australian Meat Industry Council has raised concerns that any reduction in operations will naturally flow through to suppliers.
“Overall it would move towards a 30 per cent reduction, give or take, in supply chain production, which would in turn lead to a reduction of saleable meat within the Victorian community, as well as a reduction in the opportunity for product to also be exported around the world,” meat industry council chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said.
– with Samantha Maiden