OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn reveals Australian supermarket crisis

The pandemic-induced supply chain crisis did more than just strip supermarket shelves across Australia.

The woman behind Australia’s leading food recycling charity, OzHarvest, has laid bare the extent of the pandemic-induced supply chain crisis.

The food logistics industry has been hit hard by Covid-19, which hampered the transport of goods around the country and at some points left supermarket shelves bare.

OzHarvest usually takes surplus food from shops, caterers and restaurants and distributes supplies to other charities in its distinctive yellow vans.

But its founder Ronni Kahn said the charity had struggled for supplies over the past two years at a time when there were more people in need than ever before.

“We get a lot of our surplus food from the back end of supermarkets. When there is nothing on the front shelves, there is nothing on the back shelves,” she told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“For the very first time, since Covid, OzHarvest has had to purchase food because (of) the supply – I know, you are as shocked as I was when I realised that I had more mouths to feed.”

The supply chain crunch peaked earlier this year as the Omicron variant took hold in Australia’s eastern states and unions went head to head with the Morrison government over worker safety.

The flow of goods to shops around Australia was severely disrupted as many employees either fell sick or were forced into quarantine after being deemed close contacts of positive cases.

In response, the Victorian, Queensland and NSW state governments overhauled their public health orders to allow critical workers exemptions from certain isolation requirements.

Answering questions from reporters after her International Women’s Day speech, Ms Kahn said an additional one million people had needed assistance from her charity since the pandemic began in 2020.

“I don’t care what the government tells us, those numbers are not going down,” she said.

“For the very first time, we had to purchase food, so that has shifted and changed through Covid, but we got funding to do that because people needed food.”

The flooding that has devastated NSW and southeast Queensland has also renewed pressure on the supply of food and other critical goods.

“During the floods in Queensland, there was one day that we could not get our drivers out,” Ms Kahn said on Wednesday.

Her Press Club address coincided with the release of a report warning extreme weather events could see soaring grocery prices and empty shelves become the norm.

The Farmers for Climate Action analysis detailed how natural disasters such as bushfires and floods could heighten food shortages.

A day earlier, Scott Morrison outlined a plan for Australia to shore up its manufacturing capabilities in several key areas amid global supply chain concerns.

“That is the world we are living in now – and we all know that supply chain disruptions are lower when we plan and prepare for them,” the Prime Minister told the Australian Financial Review Business Summit.

The international movement of goods has been affected by the war in Ukraine and China’s trade coercion as well as the pandemic.


Extracted from news.com.au

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