Politics

KFC affected, NSW Farmers call for rapid antigen tests, supermarkets empty shelves

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First it was the supermarkets, now Australia’s favourite fast-food chains are feeling the bite of Omicron.

Supply chain issues around the country have seen shoppers face empty shelves, with workers in transportation, distribution, and stores, forced to isolate.

New rules in some jurisdictions will allow more back to work, but there are still plenty of kinks in the chain.

KFC wicked wings
Supply chain issues are inflicting shortages on KFC stores. (KFC)

And now, KFC has confirmed it’s feeling them too, with some items going off the menu for now.

“Unfortunately our supply chain has been disrupted, and some of our restaurants will be offering a reduced menu,” a spokesperson said.

“We’re sorry for any issues this causes our customers – we’re doing everything we can to help our suppliers get back on track.”

Fellow fast-food giant McDonalds painted a somewhat rosier picture.

“Like many businesses, McDonald’s Australia has been carefully managing our supply chain – the bulk of which is based right here in Australia,” a spokesperson said.

“We continue to work closely with our strong network of long term suppliers, farmers and producers throughout the pandemic, to ensure our customers can continue to enjoy our great tasting food.”

Nine.com.au has contacted Hungry Jacks and Dominos to see how widespread the issue is.

Farmers call for rapid antigen test priority

As shoppers continue to face empty shelves in supermarkets around the country, farmers have confirmed there’s plenty of fresh food around – it’s just getting it to customers that’s the problem.

“Our growers are sending plenty of produce down to the Sydney Markets, and we’re working on making sure farm businesses can continue to harvest these crops,” NSW Farmers Association president James Jackson said.

“Sadly, we’ve seen some companies and individuals use the scarcity of tests and images of empty shelves as an opportunity to lift their prices, so we would ask the ACCC to keep a close eye on retailers to make sure they don’t bump up prices above any movements in the farm gate price of fresh fruit and vegetables.”

There’s plenty of fresh produce in the field, but worker shortages are hampering farmers’ ability to get it to market. (Nine)

Mr Jackson also joined the chorus of voices calling for greater availability of rapid antigen tests, saying a lack of them was contributing to the broader supply chain issues, as well as affecting farm production.

He said the tests would allow farmers to keep sick workers at home and healthy workers in the field.

“We’ve seen some positive announcements, but the fact remains that the fresh food we enjoy is grown on Australian farms, and if our farmers can’t get it out of their fields it won’t make it to supermarket shelves,” Mr Jackson said.

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“What’s needed most is expedited supply of tests for farmers so they can keep the food flowing to Aussie families.

“We need the agriculture sector – including harvest workers and those in the meat processing sectors, as well as those in transport and handling – to get prioritised access to Rapid Antigen Testing in the latest outbreak, lest we return to the scenes of early 2020 when customers were stockpiling food items.”

Supermarkets say panic buying not the problem

Photos emerged last week of shelves stripped bare in supermarkets in major cities.

Coles brought in buying limits on several products, with customers now limited to two packs each of chicken breasts and chicken thighs – or six pieces from the deli.

Two-pack limits also apply to mince and sausages, while customers are allowed one rapid antigen test apiece.

East Village Coles, Zetland
Supermarket shelves are rapidly emptying around the country due to worker shortages. (9News)

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

“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.”

Aldi has also said there have been additional pressures in securing store supply, but like Woolworths, it has not yet introduced buying limits.

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