- Australia’s food suppliers, distributors and hospitality venues closing due to close contact rule
- Food businesses along supply chain must be prioritized by government as an essential service and given tax deductions for RAT tests
The Independent Food Distributors Association of Australia (IFDA) says governments, state and federal, must either scrap the close contact rule immediately or come up with a new solution as Covid cases skyrocket and food businesses are forced to close.
CEO of IFDA, Richard Forbes says, “When National Cabinet made the decision, once the population was 90% vaccinated, to open our borders and let Covid run free it should have consulted with business on the impact the close contact rule would have on small businesses broadly but also across Australia’s food supply chain. Under the current rules, it means we are back to 2020 and rolling forced snap lockdowns. As staff become Covid positive, other staff then isolate as close contacts so, we are back to a situation of stop/starting businesses for the forceable future”.
“Warehouses are closing, cafes and restaurants are closing, and this is the tip of the iceberg. As cases double over the next few weeks, the situation will dramatically worsen and the ability of food distributors, suppliers and cafes and restaurants to source food or even remain open will become more difficult. Our members provide food to 60,000 pubs and clubs, cafes and restaurants and 20,000 institutional outlets like public and private hospitals, aged care facilities, child-care centres etc. We need to scrap the close contact rule immediately and let business and their employees decide a way of working or, at the very least the government should consider making RAT tests tax deductible and more freely available for small business owners and their employees. Food businesses along the supply chain must be prioritised as an ESSENTIAL SERVICE.
“Some distributors RAP test their staff daily at costs between $500 – $5,000 per week, if they can source them that is, with no government support whatsoever, at a time they are realising huge financial losses due to operator closures and consumers cancelling hospitality reservations en masse” Mr. Forbes said.
Warehouse owner Jeff Godden says, “The impact of isolating close contacts will be catastrophic to the hospitality industry, its suppliers, and to the food supply chain in general. The health advice provided by both Federal and State government was to achieve vax targets and allow the community and business to live with Covid. This has not been the outcome… we are seeing multiple venues close, and the suppliers will follow. Governments must revert to their original plan of living with Covid or provide a solution urgently”.
Mr. Forbes says independent food businesses, from distributors, suppliers to cafes and restaurants have staff working in close proximity with each other. Currently, as soon as a staff member returns a positive test, those in close contact must isolate. The business owner has no option then but to close his/her business until staff receive negative tests. Food suppliers and Distributors cannot just recruit new staff, like a café or restaurant owner, because those working in the distribution or supply chain have been trained as truck drivers, forklift drivers etc. They are not casual staff.
“When a food distribution warehouse closes, as was the case with one of our members over Christmas, it means their 1,000 hospitality customers did not receive their products for the period of closure. Another member lost 45% of his truck drivers. Small businesses not only lose millions in revenue, but it impacts workers and ultimately those in the hospitality industry and essential services industry and, the general public. Unless the close contact rule is scrapped then small businesses across the country will be forced to close in far greater numbers as cases increase across the country. Governments cannot have it both ways, open the borders then tell businesses their staff must isolate if someone returns a positive result,” Mr. Forbes says.
The Independent Food Distributors Association of Australia (IFDA is the premier representative body within the $11 billion independent food distribution industry in Australia. IFDA contributes to the growth, development, and success of the food distribution industry in Australia and in so doing, is a major contributor to the Australian economy.
IFDA represents Australia’s three largest independent food distribution organisations: Countrywide Foodservice Distributors, NAFDA Foodservice and The Distributors. Collectively they represent over 200 independent, family-owned and operated businesses; that operate 266 distribution centres (warehouses) across Australia with roughly 50% of these businesses located in regional Australia. Importantly, our members provide food to almost 100,000 commercial and institutional outlets. The commercial outlets include Australia’s pubs, clubs, cafes, restaurants and the hospitality industry. The institutional outlets include public and private hospitals, aged care centres, child-care centres etc.
Independent Food Distributors Australia
Richard Forbes, Chief Executive Officer
0427 270 687