'No meat on the shelves': Supermarket warns of impending food shortages

Brianne Tolj
·3-min read

One of Australia’s largest supermarkets has warned Victoria’s new strict lockdowns could lead to national food shortages and more panic buying.

The supermarket, who has not been named, made an appeal to Scott Morrison through the Supermarkets Tasforce, which includes Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and Metcash, according to The Australian.

The supermarket fears Stage Four restrictions for businesses, which will come into place on Friday, will severely limit the productivity of abattoirs and food distribution centres.

The possible lack of produce could force residents to have to visit stores more frequently, they said, according to the publication.

Empty shelves are seen at a Woolworths' store in Melbourne. Source: Twitter
The supermarket fears Stage Four restrictions for businesses will severely limit the productivity of abattoirs and food distribution centres. Source: Twitter

Shopping for essentials is one of four reasons people can leave their homes within Melbourne, and only one person from each household is allowed to go each day.

Panic buying has already been seen in stores across the city, but the Supermarket Taskforce fears that could spread nationwide.

Numerous social media users have posted images online of empty shelves and shared their concerns over missing meat products.

One tweeted there was “virtually no meat on the shelves”.

Woolworths reintroduced product limits on numerous items, including fresh produce, toilet paper and toiletries, in Victoria on August 2 and once again asked customers to only purchase what they need.

On the same day, Coles announced further purchase limits on mince meat, chicken breasts and chicken thighs, in addition to limits on hand sanitiser and face masks.

Mr Morrison said the federal government had passed on full and frank advice from business groups, agreeing that reducing critical food suppliers could have knock-on effects for supply chains in other parts of the country.

During a press conference on Thursday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was adamant the state's aggressive lockdown will not trigger shortages.

He said he has struck a delicate balance as the state tries to squash its coronavirus cases.

“A lot of work has gone into driving down staff levels but, at the same time, protecting the amount of product that will be on supermarket shelves," he said.

"That's our aim. That's what we think we can confidently deliver."

Business leaders held crisis talks with the state government on Wednesday night over fears of a shortage.

In response, supermarket distribution centres and medical warehouses will have an extra two days to comply with restrictions.

From midnight on Sunday they will be forced to reduce capacity by a third.

Woolworths opens it doors at Kew in Melbourne. Source: AAP
Supermarket distribution centres and medical warehouses will have an extra two days to comply with restrictions. Source: AAP

Red meat processors will switch to 66 per cent, while abattoirs with 25 or fewer staff will be exempt.

Poultry will only fall to 80 per cent capacity in a bid to avoid birds being destroyed but not processed, which would have sparked significant chicken shortages.

Mr Andrews said everything would be done to make sure essentials were on the shelf.

"I can't guarantee that every cut of meat that you might want, in the quantity that you might want it, will be there," Mr Andrews said.

"But we're doing everything we can to strike that really challenging balance."

with AAP

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