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Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

First it was Japan. Now, a fried chicken shortage is hitting consumers Down Under.

In sad news for lovers of deep-fried poultry, KFC said it is cutting items on its menus across Australia due to Covid-19-driven staff shortages at its suppliers. The fast-food giant issued an apologetic statement on its Australian website, as customers took to social media to vent their disappointment.

“We’re working with our multiple suppliers to mitigate the impact and provide them with support, but we expect some disruptions to continue in the coming weeks,” a spokesperson said in comments emailed to Bloomberg.

The chicken shortage is not just confined to KFC. The share price of Inghams, one of Australia’s largest poultry processors, plunged 6% on Tuesday after it flagged lower production due to a lack of workers in a business update to investors.

“The operational and trading difficulties have resulted in significant operational inefficiency, additional costs and the temporary suspension of a number of Ingham’s products,” MD Andrew Reeves said in the update. “We are focused on supplying as much product as possible to customers while the current disruption continues.”

Poultry is the latest item in a growing list of food products that have been hit by supply-chain problems and staff shortages as the Omicron virus variant sweeps through Australia. Authorities are grappling with soaring case numbers that have led to the reinstatement of Covid-19 restrictions across much of the country, while tens of thousands of infected people and their close contacts have been forced to isolate at home.

With meat supplies hanging in the balance, some Australian state governments have amended mandated isolation requirements for workers in critical food supply chains to allow people who are close contacts to return to work if they have no symptoms and are fully vaccinated.

Ingham’s told investors that it was still too early to put an estimate on how long the delays would continue, while the overall impact on the business was still unclear. The changes to the isolation rules should help to alleviate some of staffing pressures, Reeves said.

“As operating conditions begin to stabilise, we expect our production capacity to recover relatively quickly to meet customer and consumer demand,” he said.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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