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Supermarket supply chain trouble, buying limits, updates from Coles, Woolworths Aldi

Australia’s major chains are all gripped with shortages as isolation requirements put significant dents in the workforces both at a distribution and store level.

Photos show shelves empty of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, and, of course, toilet paper.

East Village Coles, Zetland
Supermarkets are seeing empty shelves due to the Omicron variant hitting supply chains. (9News)

Stores have largely attributed this to supply issues, however, rather than panic-buying, despite soaring cases around the country.

Woolworths director of stores Jeanette Fenske said movement of stock was the issue.

“We are seeing our customers shop in very responsible quantities and we’d like to thank them for continuing to do so,” she said.

Woolworths Thornleigh
Fruit and vegetables are also in short supply. (9News)

And she warned things might get worse before they get better.

“I think as long as we continue to see an increase in community transmissions, we will continue to see disruption in our supply chain to varying degrees,” she said.

Coles today updated its buying limits for customers, as supermarkets around Australia continue to battle the supply chain impact of COVID-19.
Toilet paper is again being sold out. (9News)

“Over the last few months, the global and domestic disruption caused by the pandemic has presented us with a number of supply chain challenges. This includes a shortage of wooden pallets and transport workers, and international shipping delays,” CEO Steven Cain said in a message to customers.

“More recently, an increase in COVID case numbers in the community has required more people to isolate, which has meant fewer people are available to work in Australia – including in the food industry.”

He said this had led to delayed deliveries and some shortages in stores.

Panic-buying is not being blamed for the shortages on shelves. (9News)

Coles this week introduced buying limits on a number of products.

Customers are now limited to two packs per customer of chicken breasts and chicken thighs – or six pieces from the deli.

Two-pack limits also apply to mince and sausages.

Unlike during previous shopping shortages, fresh goods as well as long-lasting are being snapped up. (9News)

With rapid antigen tests in demand around the country, Coles shoppers are also limited to just one per customer.

RATs are also not currently available to online shoppers.

Yesterday, Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci outlined the impact the spread of Omicron had made across the supply chain.

East Village Coles, Zetland
Buying limits have been imposed in places. (9News)

“Unlike the surge buying of early 2020 (who could forget the toilet paper), this is because of the number of people in our supply chain in isolation – from suppliers to truck drivers and distribution centre team members – which in turn is causing material delays to store deliveries,” Mr Banducci said.

“To give you a sense of the magnitude of the challenge, we are experiencing COVID-driven absences of 20 per cent-plus in our distribution centres and 10 per cent-plus in our stores.”

Coles Eastgardens

How Australia faced the emergence of the Omicron variant

New South Wales is currently the most-affected state, but Mr Banducci said there were impacts across the entire country – and it wasn’t clear how soon the system would recover.

The third major chain in Australia, Aldi, like Woolworths has no purchasing limits in place.

“Although the ongoing COVID-19 situation has meant additional pressure to our operations, ALDI continues to do its best to minimise any disruption to our customers,” a spokesperson told nine.com.au yesterday.

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