Australian markets grapple after Covid-based staff shortage

Staff shortages owing to illness or isolation, along with persistent supply chain issues, have left grocery shelves barren once again.

Since the start of the pandemic on Tuesday, Australia has seen more than 500,000 Covid cases. The number of daily cases in the states and territories continues to climb, putting tens of thousands of people in quarantine and isolating even more close relatives.

According to the Transport Employees Union, between a third and half of Australia’s transport workers are absent every day, disrupting supply to supermarkets.

There are product shortages at all of the major stores, including fruit, vegetables, and meat.

Michael Kaine, the union’s national secretary, said they wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison in October, requesting fast tests for transport workers to “keep drivers on the road.”

Large transportation companies have warned the union that Covid infections and seclusion have caused up to half of their staff to go missing.

“We have a fully predictable scenario where drivers provide fast tests to be sold on the shelves of supermarkets and pharmacies – but they, like the majority of Australians, are unable to access them,” he said.

Woolworths apologised for the unavailability of some products, citing Covid absenteeism in distribution centres, particularly in Sydney.

As the number of cases grows, a spokeswoman said they are striving to replenish stockpiles “as rapidly as feasible.”

“The pandemic has presented many obstacles over the last two years and will continue to do so as we move forward,” the official stated.

“Due to Covid-related affects on our supply chain operations, we’re now experiencing delays with certain of our stock delivery to retailers.”

Coles also expressed regret and assured that the shelves would be replenished as quickly as possible.

“We’re seeing a spike in the number of team members who are being forced to segregate owing to home exposure to Covid while they wait for test results,” a spokesperson said.

“We’re keeping an eye on team member availability across the board.”

Coles also mentioned a shortage of shipping pallets and transportation capacity as supply difficulties. A global timber deficit has resulted in a scarcity of pallets to transport products.

Covid-related production closures in other countries have exacerbated the problem, as have rising local freight prices and a predicted shortage of urea, a key component of diesel fuel.

“We’ve been working with our suppliers and other partners to address a number of supply chain challenges, such as shipping pallet availability and transport capacity, to ensure we can continue to provide our customers with the food and drinks they need,” a Coles spokeswoman said.

Covid was putting additional strain on Aldi’s supply chain, according to an Aldi spokesman, but the company was doing everything it could to minimise any inconvenience.

According to a corporate spokeswoman, the corporation has “strict and optimised Covid-safe policies” in place, including fast antigen testing and a variety of other precautions to keep teams isolated.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, and other items, such as toilet paper, were all reported to be in limited supply. The problems with those items are distinct from the scarcity of fast antigen testing, which is caused by a general lack of supply.

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