In this file:


·         Domestic meat shortages loom as processors face COVID-induced labour shortage

·         Processors welcome reduced COVID restrictions, but RAT problems are looming



Domestic meat shortages loom as processors face COVID-induced labour shortage


Source: AMIC

via Beef Central (Australia) - 04/01/2022


THE Australian Meat Industry Council is urgently calling for the Federal and State Governments to protect vulnerable food supply chains across Australia, as surging Omicron cases in the community are forcing essential workers to stay home and businesses to temporarily close or operate at very low staffing levels.


AMIC warns that there is a supply shortage looming unless urgent guarantees are put in place to shore up meat production and supply capacity. This includes processors, boning rooms, smallgoods manufacturers, cold stores and wholesalers through to butcher shops and supermarkets.


“In what is already a hugely challenging meat supply landscape, with record high livestock prices and labour shortages due to COVID border closures, we are hearing that multiple meat processing establishments are now having to temporarily shut their doors or operate at very low capacities due to the Omicron surge,” said AMIC CEO Patrick Hutchinson.


“We are experiencing an unprecedented wave of staffing unpredictability. As COVID spreads in the community, our industry workers are unable to present for work for at least seven days should someone in their family or household test positive, under the current national COVID protocol.”


“In some instances, we are hearing that under 30 percent of rostered workers have presented for work,” he said...





Processors welcome reduced COVID restrictions, but RAT problems are looming


Eric Barker, Beef Central (Australia)



AS EARLY starting processors experience major staff shortages due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the industry is hoping a decision to relax isolation rules for meatworkers will take some pressure off.


Last week, Coles put limits on the sale of some beef products and the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) warned of widespread domestic meat shortages.


In response, the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian governments have allowed food and grocery workers, including meatworkers, who are a close contact of a case to avoid quarantine if they test negative – putting them in line with health workers.


While the limited availability of rapid antigen tests are still a worry for processors hoping to use the relaxed restrictions, the move has mostly been welcomed by the industry.


AMIC CEO Patrick Hutchinson said the rapid spread of Omicron had already forced some processors to significantly reduce capacity.


“We’ve had a range of facilities up and down the eastern seaboard close or have up to 60 percent absenteeism,” Mr Hutchinson said.


“A lot of processors have been trying to start work again in the past fortnight to fulfil their orders and this has been a big frustration.”


Mr Hutchinson said the new isolation rules were welcomed by the industry, with processors working hard to provide a safe environment.


“We’re hoping workers will be able to come back to work and product can start to come through,” he said.


“Our COVIDsafe plans within plants are very stringent and a lot of PPE is used to stop the virus spreading. These were in place for other outbreaks like Delta and variants before that.”


More plants to open in the next fortnight ...


RATs remain elusive for processors ...