Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has warned the state could be set for a “challenging period” amid fears of food shortages in the state, but stressed leading supermarkets were up to the test.
On Friday, the premier was pressed on fears voiced by Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci suggesting supermarkets will face product shortages during the Christmas period, with meat, seafood and vegetables hit the worst.
Following coronavirus outbreaks in multiple abattoirs and processing facilities, the Andrews government has introduced new measures in workplaces limiting staff numbers, with Mr Banducci fearing that if the new restrictions weren’t loosened, there could be shortages similar to those seen during the panic-buying period.
Mr Andrews admitted the current restrictions with warehousing are “challenging” for suppliers.
“That is what the industry tells us. Not right now, but it will be a challenge later. We continue to work with them to try and refine those.”
He personally thanked all supermarket workers for their contribution during the pandemic, and assured they would continue to play their part.
“If I can, on behalf of Victorians I want to thank every supermarket worker out there who's done an amazing job. Amazing job. They will continue to do that work. I'm confident of that,” he said.
“I'm confident we will ... see everything we need on the shelves whilst also making sure that those warehouse settings particularly, which have been high risk are as safe as they possibly can be.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, supermarkets were at the forefront of the coronavirus narrative, with widespread shortages of essential items, notably toilet paper, selling out as shoppers rushed to stock up on items fearing lengthy lockdowns.
Supermarkets were forced to impose shopping limits on certain items at the peak of Australia’s panic buying, however they were removed weeks later.
There was a surge in shopping as Victoria’s second wave took hold, but not to the same scale as seen at the beginning of the pandemic.
Fruit and veg industries facing ‘natural disaster’
There are fears the stringent national border restrictions implemented by the federal government will decimate the fresh produce industry for supermarkets.
Farmers across the nation are experiencing extreme labour shortages to maintain and pick crops due to a ban on incoming foreign nationals.
The industry is heavily reliant on working holiday visa holders and the Seasonal Worker Program, who travel to regional areas to qualify for further visa applications.
"I view this as similar to a natural disaster. We've got this disaster with this pandemic and the lack of labour in every industry," mandarin farm owner Chris Pressler told a parliamentary inquiry on Friday.
Citrus, cherries, stone fruit, table grapes, tomatoes and strawberries are feared to be worst hit.
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