Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)
The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) is calling on state and territory governments to make immediate changes to the isolation requirements for food, transport and distribution workers that are close contacts, to ensure that the entire supply chain can provide food to Australians. The fresh produce industry is facing a critically low workforce due to COVID cases and isolation requirements for close contacts. While this issue is throughout the food supply chain, it is most critical in transport and distribution.
The industry is anticipating that the situation will become increasingly worse over the next two weeks. Some businesses are seeing a halving in their workforce in one day. People aren’t turning up because they have COVID, are close contacts or are concerned about COVID. This is affecting the harvesting, packing, transport and distribution of fruit and vegetables. The challenges faced by retailers in their distribution centres and store delivery is cascading back into the supply chain, placing increasing pressure on already strained farming businesses.
Indications from Australia’s largest food retailers are that there will be less availability of products over the coming weeks due to workforce shortages created by the rise in COVID cases and associated isolation requirements. Currently, all close contacts of a positive COVID case must remain isolated for 7 days, even with a negative rapid antigen or PCR test. Additionally, without changes, it will become increasingly difficult to supply food over the next fortnight.