Finance Consumer ‘We have no more time to waste’: COVID-19 creates remote groceries crisis

‘We have no more time to waste’: COVID-19 creates remote groceries crisis

People living in remote locations are struggling to find food. Photo: Getty
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A coalition of 13 Aboriginal organisations want urgent action to ensure remote indigenous communities get basic groceries amid COVID-19 panic-buying.

Aboriginal leaders in the Northern Territory say the federal government is failing to act on grocery shortages in remote communities driven by COVID-19 panic-buying, saying some stores are running out of fresh food three days after their weekly delivery.

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT chief executive John Paterson said big supermarkets were sweeping up the bulk of goods from manufacturers and producers, leaving small independent suppliers struggling to get what they need.

Mr Paterson said remote community residents were responding by taking back roads into regional towns to get supplies, putting them at risk of contracting coronavirus.

He said pricing was also a big issue as high freight costs and limited purchasing power meant remote stores charged on average 60 per cent more than major supermarkets.

A coalition of 13 Aboriginal organisations, including the Central Land Council, met to discuss the crisis in Alice Springs on Monday and called for a 20 per cent point-of-sale subsidy for essential food, cleaning and personal hygiene products, winter bedding and clothes.

They also want the Commonwealth to compel producers to set aside goods for remote stores.

The coalition said the stores were still waiting to hear about any interventions after the federal and NT governments met major supermarkets, suppliers and three major remote retailers two weeks ago.

“We urge the national cabinet to take action, before it is too late, because time is all remote Aboriginal communities have on their side in their fight against the virus,” Central Australian Aboriginal Congress chief executive Donna Ah Chee said.

“We have no more time to waste.”

Mai Wiru, a not-for-profit organisation that operates shops in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in South Australia’s far north-west, recently said community stores in the state were also suffering shortages, receiving as little as 40 per cent of their orders.