Supermarkets are curtailing purchases as Australian supply chains have shaken

Supermarkets are curtailing purchases as Australian supply chains have shaken

Food-purchase limits have been once again introduced in many stores across Australia, returning the country to the beginning of the pandemic, as a tide of omicron cases stumbles supply chains. Coles Group Ltd., Australia’s second-biggest supermarket operator, forced temporary two-pack purchasing limits on sausages, chicken thighs and breasts, and mince, it said Thursday. The organization expanded a one-pack limit on Covid-19 fast antigen tests.

In early 2020, Australian hoarders stripped shop shelves bare of flour and disinfectant, and brawled over toilet paper, as the new virus fueled panic. Almost two years on, broken supply chains — rather than lockdowns — are triggering the latest caps on fresh-produce purchases.

“Coles will continue to monitor product availability and asks that customers buy only what they need,” the Melbourne-based company said. Only customers in Western Australia, where there are fewer cases than on the populous east coast, are exempt.

Shoppers in New South Wales state, especially those in Sydney, have faced empty grocery shelves in recent days. Supermarkets are struggling to get goods to stores because omicron is forcing delivery workers into isolation. The state reported 34,994 cases on Thursday, while neighboring Victoria recorded 21,997 infections.

The Australian Meat Industry Council this week warned of a looming shortage because producers and suppliers were losing so many staff as Covid-19 cases or close contacts.

The official tallies likely understate the true numbers because swamped testing clinics have been forced to turn people away, and results are taking days to be processed.

Woolworths Group Ltd., the country’s biggest supermarket operator, said Thursday that product limits aren’t required “at this stage,” though the company “will continue to closely monitor product availability across our stores.”

Woolworths has had a one-pack limit on rapid antigen tests since they went on sale last year.

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