Supply chain pinch could see milk spilling out

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ADIC Vice President Grant Crothers said pressure on the workforce could create a “domino effect” disrupting the milk supply pipeline from farmers to consumers.

“The worst-case scenario is that [the] the milk is not picked up on the farm, ”he told SBS News.

“It’s more than likely we’ll see isolated examples of milk dumping. ”

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The disruptions in the supply chain are prompting a lobbying effort from the industry body for the government to take more action to address the concerns.

Mr Crothers said the King Island operation in Tasmania was among the producing regions affected by COVID-19 infections and facing labor shortages.

“When you have tank drivers every day, picking up milk, losing a third of it without warning, obviously that puts enormous pressure on the supply chain,” he said.

“The challenge for dairy is that we have the most urgent raw material in the entire food chain. “

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday held a joint National Coordination Mechanism and Critical Infrastructure Advisory Board supply chain meeting with members of his government.

Mr Morrison said patience is needed as solutions are sought to fill the gaps in essential service roles left vacant by thousands of Australian workers stricken by COVID-19.

“The challenge of COVID with escalating cases is to get things done, that’s what this wave of COVID means,” Mr. Morrison said at the start of the virtual meeting.

“With so many people contracting COVID, this is clearly going to take more and more people out of the workforce.”

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The government plans to expand the definition of essential services to include road, rail and air transport, mental health, education and schooling services, energy supply, and clinics and laboratories.

The classification would exempt these workers from close contact isolation requirements to reduce the number of essential workers forced to leave their jobs.

Whether essential services require a booster injection for staff is also on the agenda, along with additional social measures to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace.

Supply chain challenges are ‘disappointing’

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston also hosted a Tuesday night meeting with representatives from Food and
retailer associations, transport and distribution associations, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), the Guild of Pharmacists, the Chamber of Small Businesses and the Regional Association of Airlines.

NFF President Fiona Simpson said it was “disappointing” that supply chains were again placed “under extreme pressure” without planning ahead to resolve the issue.

“The Omicron shortage means we have product piling up on farms waiting to be delivered and just can’t be delivered at all,” she told SBS News.

“I think people would generally think that maybe we’ve learned and been able to do some of that strategic planning.”

Companies as well as the NFF are seeking national consistency and clarity regarding isolation and testing requirements, and a more consistent supply of rapid antigen testing where it is needed.

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Australian Industry Group CEO Innes Willox has said he also wants to consider temporarily granting employment rights to all visa holders currently in Australia.

“This temporary visa modification could be introduced immediately and reconsidered when the Omicron epidemic reaches its peak,” he said.

“This crisis should force us to think creatively about rules and regulations to identify ways to put all hands on deck in critical areas.”

The federal government is also examining the extent to which companies in non-critical industries should stop requiring workers to produce negative rapid antigen tests as they recover.

It also proposes that people receiving unemployment benefit for job seekers can be reintegrated into the labor market in order to ease pressure on supply chains.

The issues will be considered further at a National Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

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