While Coles and Woolworths struggle with supply chain issues caused by the Omicron outbreak, local farmer’s markets and independent food retailers appear to be coming into their own.
Empty shelves have become a common sight at major supermarkets in recent weeks.
Coles at Ocean Shores seems to have been particularly affected, with the meat, cheese and fresh produce sections frequently featuring large gaps.
But they are far from alone, with Woolworths in Mullumbimby and Byron also clearly affected.
The main reason for the barren shelves are COVID-related staff shortages at the large supply centres which service the major chains, as well as a shortage of delivery drivers.
But the smaller supermarkets, such as Mullumbimby IGA, and the farmer’s markets, appear to be weathering the storm far more easily. This is because they are less reliant on the major distribution centres, and source more of their products locally.
The shelves at the IGA Mullum store, for eample, have been consistently well-stocked.
‘I think we’re just a lot more flexible, and able to adjust quickly to changing situations,’ the store’s assistant manager, Andrew Kerry, said.
‘We do also get a lot of local products and stuff from small suppliers – meat, vegetables, even toilet paper.’
‘You just don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, so being able to adapt is really important.’
The farmer’s markets are in an even better position to dodge the supply chain issues plaguing the major supermarket chains.
In many cases, it is the farmers themselves who are transporting and selling the produce at these markets, meaning that they have largely avoided the bottlenecks caused by staff shortages in the logistics sector.
At the same time, market staff are mainly working outdoors – both on the farm and at the market – meaning that they are much less likely to contract COVID.
Not surprisingly, the markets – along with the independent retailers – have been extra busy so far this year.
‘Fortunately we’ve got a really good crew of staff’, Mr Kerry said. ‘They’re pretty loyal and they’re really good as far as people filling in for others is concerned.’