Coles, Woolworths shoppers reveal 'sad' new problem: 'Worse than Covid'

Coles and Woolworths shoppers living in Alice Springs have shared startling images of bare supermarket shelves to “give a glimpse of what it’s like to live in a remote area”.

Supply chains to the town and other parts of the Northern Territory were cut off this week after a deluge of rain submerged parts of the transcontinental railway line running from Adelaide to Darwin.

The Stuart Highway, which runs from Darwin, through Alice Springs, and into South Australia, is also impassable in some areas.

The state is already under stress as Covid-19 cases continue to surge, with NT recording 940 new cases on Friday — the state’s highest daily total.

A Coles shopper walking through the empty meat section. Source: Facebook
Coles and Woolworths shoppers living in Alice Springs have shared startling images of bare supermarket shelves. Source: Facebook

A three-day lockdown imposed on Monday for the Milikaptiti community has been extended until Sunday and a lockout is in place for Alice Springs, Amoonguna, Yuendumu and Yuelamu, meaning fully-vaccinated people can live normally but the unvaccinated must stay at home.

An indoor mask mandate remains across the state.

'Food is running out fast'

With truckers and freight trains unable to access supermarkets, Alice Springs residents say they are quickly running out of food.

“The joys of country life, and having the main road and train tracks washed away by the flood,” one woman said on Instagram alongside pictures of the town’s empty Woolworths store.

She compared the lack of available items to the pandemic panic-buying, saying it is “worse than Covid”.

Another woman named Amanda shared images of the Coles supermarket in Alice Springs, with no meat and very little fresh fruit seen on shelves.

“A glimpse of what it's like to live in a remote area,” she said, adding that she took the pictures on Thursday morning.

Coles workers are seen stacking shelves with fresh fruit.
Shoppers noted the small amount of fresh fruit available in Coles. Source: Facebook

"Food is running out fast."

Amanda said she lives 330km from Alice Springs and gets "a bush order every fortnight”.

“We put in our order yesterday and half the groceries weren't available. Our bush order won't arrive until Thursday next week.

“What will likely happen: Me making a special trip into town next week and possibly needing two days off work to make the trip to try and get the items like meat, milk, fruit and veg we couldn't order.

“I know most of you live in cities — so this is a glimpse of life out here.”

The Coles shopper said truckers have been told to drive through NSW and QLD to Central Australia but aren’t due to arrive until Saturday and Sunday.

A practically empty Woolworths store in Alice Springs.
A Woolworths shopper was stunned by the empty shelves. Source: Instagram

Coles imposes new purchase limits

A spokesperson for Woolworths told NT News more stock is expected to arrive in the town on Friday.

The shortage has also prompted Coles to impose new purchase limits in the state from Friday, a spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

“Due to flooding in parts of regional South Australia, the road and rail routes to Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia have been disrupted," a Coles spokesperson said.

“This is going to be a challenging time for our customers and team members as we anticipate delays to transport deliveries, which will temporarily impact the availability of products in our stores.

“We have introduced temporary purchase limits to ensure fair access to essential products for all customers.

“We are continuing to review our stock levels and are working hard with our suppliers, transport partners and government to get products through the network as quickly as possible.

“We thank our customers for continuing to treat our team members with kindness and respect and ask that they only purchase what they need.”

A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia flooding and supply chain issues disrupted by Covid-19 had led to delays in deliveries to Northern Territory stores.

"We re-routed our deliveries from South Australia into the NT via Mt Isa this week, however further Queensland road closures are now impacting those delivery routes," the spokesperson said.

"Our teams are working hard to deliver stock to our NT stores as quickly as possible, and assessing alternate delivery routes.

"Unfortunately, our local customers will continue to regrettably see reduced product availability in our stores. We know this is frustrating and thank everyone for their patience and understanding."

New Coles product limits:

  • Paper towels x 2

  • Facial tissues x 2

  • Flour x 2

  • Rice x 2

  • Long life milk x 4

  • Fresh milk x 2

Coles product limits already in place:

  • Rapid Antigen Test kit x 1

  • Toilet paper x 1

  • Paracetamol x 2

  • Chicken breasts from deli x 6

  • Chicken thighs from deli x 6

  • Chicken breasts packet x 2

  • Chicken thighs packet x 2

  • Mince x 2

  • Sausages x 2

Coles’ meat limits are being imposed around the country except for in Tasmania.

Nationwide, the supermarket chain has limited paracetamol to two packs per customer and toilet paper and rapid antigen tests to one per shopper.

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