Covid Chaos – Topsy turvy times

TASMANIA’S meat and fruit processors are soldiering on to stock the nation’s shelves with fresh product despite the complexities created by Covid.

The topsy turvy world of Covid is creating problems in supply chains across the nation with staff required to isolate after being categorised as a close contact and/or testing positive for the virus.

The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has joined with a raft of other peak organisations in calling for changes to the isolation rules.

TCCI CEO Michael Bailey said that several sectors were at risk of shutting down because of isolation rules.

“It doesn’t make sense for people to be forced to isolate when they don’t have Covid,” Mr Bailey said.
“If we don’t make these changes, and soon, then there are going to be serious consequences for the community and for the economy.
“It’s worth pointing out that nearly a month after our borders reopened, the hospitalisation rate for Covid in Tasmania is still very small, relaxing isolation rules won’t affect that and the Government needs to do everything it can now to support the community, workers and businesses.”

Award-winning processor Tasmanian Quality Meats (TQM), in the heart of Tasmania’s lamb growing region near Cressy, faces freight issues because of Covid.

Smithton meat processor Greenham is another meeting the challenges in this environment.

Family-run TQM, which has grown steadily over the past 19 years exporting to various countries, provides a service for butchers and wholesalers throughout Tasmania and the mainland.

TQM owner/director Brian Oliver said the company faced freight issues as delivery companies dealt with their staff issues and he expected the problem to worsen.

“We are getting by, but we have an issue with freight, and we have a small staffing issue in the plant, but we are handling that,” Mr Oliver said.
“We freight throughout Australia, and it’s a national issue because the staffing at freight companies can cause problems getting product delivered.”

Meanwhile in the fruit growing sector the changing landscape has created opportunities for locals to bring in the harvest.

Fruit Growers Tasmania executive officer Peter Cornish said Covid was not a concern during the biggest month for growers – with the harvest of everything except apples.

The state needs about 9000 workers to bring the harvest in.

“There are plenty of opportunities to earn good money and be in the open air. Covid is not a concern but it’s another level of complexity we are living with.”

Peter Woodhouse of Kings Rock Cherries at Lawritta near New Norfolk, said despite the rain and expected interruptions, the season was progressing nicely. The orchard workforce had been consistent so far this season.

“I’ve got about 30 to 40 workers, most are young kids, with a few adults, learning the ropes and getting better every day, which is great, because we’ve got a lot of fruit this season.”

The mostly local workers have been shuffling between local orchards as the weather dictates what fruits can be picked, and despite the odd Covid outage, he has been extremely pleased with his workforce.

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