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Government addresses food supply concerns in VIC

Minister for Industry said food supply chains are not “crying wolf” amid Victoria’s Stage 4 restrictions. Industries including meat processing, supermarket and medical distribution will cut their operations by a third whilst poultry producers will operate at 80 per cent of their typical capacity.

Under the Stage 4 restrictions that came into effect at 11.59 August 5, high-risk industries including meat processing, supermarket and medical distribution will be permitted to continue operating on-site within strict guidelines and must implement High Risk COVIDSafe plans.

Warehousing and distribution centres in Melbourne will be limited to no more than two-thirds the normal workforce allowed onsite at any one time.

However, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Thursday August 5 that chicken producers will be operating at 80 per cent of their normal capacity.

“The difference in the life cycle of those birds means that if you were to reduce down to say that 66 per cent number, then there would be hundreds of thousands of animals that would be essentially destroyed, but not processed and that would lead to some, I think, very significant shortages of product,” Andrews said during a press conference on Thursday.

Andrews noted that for seafood with centres that are below 40 staff “these rules won’t apply”.

“All of these measures are designed to drive down to the lowest numbers of workers we can practically get to without at the same time delivering a shortage of products,” Andrews told media.

“There is a challenge and a balance between reducing the number of workers so we reduce the number of COVID cases whilst maintaining the stock and the supply of food and other basics.”

Andrews warned the public against stocking up on meat products, saying it would worsen the state’s supply and distribution significantly.

“You may not be able to get the cut of meat you want, but you will get what you need.”

FEDERAL RESPONSE

In a public address on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Government have been fully aware of the feedback from industry due to Stage 4 restrictions in Victoria.

“This occurs at a number of levels, around critical supplies, particularly when it comes to food,” The Prime Minister said.

“We’ve passed on that advice very frankly and very fully.”

In an interview with ABC AM, Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry told Sabra Lane that that the Federal Government has offered assistance to the Victorian Government.

“I’m taking a national perspective on things such as PPE, but also our food supplies. What’s important is that we do keep supply chains operating,” Karen told ABC AM.

“And look I’m reasonably confident, particularly with food at the moment.”

“For starters we actually grow more than what we need for our own uses here in Australia, but we are very keen to look at what’s happening – particularly with the meat industry, because we need to make sure that we’ve got the proper refrigeration if we have to move around storage and distribution.”

However, Karen said food supply chains are not “crying wolf”.

“They are right to be alert and to be looking to the future, the very short-term future, about what those issues are. So there’s been extensive engagement with industry to talk to them about supply chains, what we need to do to be able to assist them – that will clearly ramp up given the escalation of the situation in Victoria,” She said.

“I don’t want industry to be alarmed but I do want them to be alert and I want them to be looking at what the issues are with their supply chains, and to come to the Federal Government and talk to us if there’s something of national significance.”

Related story: What does Victoria’s State of Disaster mean for supply chains?

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