The national supply chain crisis continues to affect regional supermarkets despite the federal government's provision of isolation exemptions to food distribution workers last week.
Local shoppers continue to be met with empty meat and poultry aisles at several supermarket outlets across the region.
Federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters visited Epsom Woolworths to discuss the continuing supply issues facing the store.
She said the issues were disproportionately affecting meat supply in the region.
"There is a real pressure point in meat processing," she said.
The Epsom store typically unpacks over 8,000 cartons a day, however due to the ongoing supply chain issues the store is down to approximately 6,000.
"Drivers, distribution centre staff and local meat processing staff are all affected," Ms Chesters said.
Bendigo poultry manufacturer, Hazeldene's is facing major staff shortages which is impacting local supply.
However, Ms Chesters says Woolworths are addressing concerns to the best of their abilities.
"Woolworths are hiring more people," she said, "they just hired another 15 people and they're looking for more".
"They're trying to ensure that as soon as the food arrives it is going straight onto the shelves."
Ms Chesters says the supply chain issues are another reminder of the need for free and available rapid antigen tests.
"People need to be testing themselves each day, so they can return to work when they're feeling healthy," she said.
Paid pandemic leave is also on Ms Chesters radar, as certain casual staff have been missing out on the payments when they've been forced to isolate.
"The government has to make sure those payments are flowing quickly so people aren't left without money,'' she said.
"Sometimes Centrelink can be a bit clunky and there can be delays."
"We need to make it quicker so that people can access those payments."
Across the region, approximately 40 per cent of staff are casual workers or labour hire workers.
"Their only option for support while they're isolated is a government payment which, quite frankly, should be higher", Ms Chesters said.
Ms Chesters said she's worried that regional areas are being left behind in the supply chain crisis.
TipTop bakery in Bendigo send their products to Melbourne before they come back to Bendigo.
"The way the supply chain networks have been established means there isnt direct distribution to us," she said, "so it can mean we get left behind.
However, Woolworths said that locals have been largely understanding of the supply chain issues.
Last week, Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci said that the company expected supply issues to be affecting stores for several weeks as the manufacturer catches up with shortages.
This week the state government acquired 3 million rapid tests, however, the tests are due to be sent to state healthcare clinics, not to commercial industries.
"Nobody should be scrambling to find a rapid test," Ms Chesters said, "the federal government need to get them into the country as soon as possible".
"We're seeing a bigger spread of the virus because people do not know they are infectious."
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