Australia’s supermarket giants have imposed fresh product limits in West Australian stores as floods leave supply chains severely disrupted.
Freight services have ground to a halt on the Trans-Australian Railway after South Australia last month received a one-in-200-years deluge.
Repairs are continuing along a section of track more than 300 kilometres long, which has sustained damage across 18 spots.
Coles on Thursday announced temporary purchase limits for WA customers on a range of goods including pasta, rice, flour, sugar, chicken and sausages.
Toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, medicinal products and rapid antigen tests are also subject to limits.
Coles said while the majority of fresh produce in its WA supermarkets was grown or produced locally, some products could only be sourced from the eastern states. All freight options were being considered including road, marine and air.
“We are continuing to review our stock levels and are working hard to get products through the network as quickly as possible,” the company said.
“This is going to be a challenging time … we thank our customers for continuing to treat our team members with kindness and respect and ask that they only purchase what they need.”
Woolworths said it would impose a two-pack purchase limit on flour, sugar, rice, pasta, eggs, paper towels, frozen fruit, frozen vegetables and frozen chips in WA, in addition to pre-existing nationwide product limits on toilet paper and painkillers.
“The loss of the key freight link from the east will regrettably have an impact on product availability in our stores over the next little while,” WA general manager Karl Weber said.
“More than 80 per cent of our fresh fruit and vegetable range is sourced from growers within Western Australia, so we expect that part of the store will hold up reasonably well. We also source a large volume of our milk, dairy and meat locally.”
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said she had been advised the rail line would reopen on February 17 but cautioned that purchase limits could remain in place for weeks to come given there was a significant freight backlog.
She said she had spoken to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to discuss options for supply contingencies.
“It highlights the fact that we probably need to do more to ensure that we have a more resilient east-west supply chain connection,” she told reporters.
“We’re very keen to work together to see how we can improve things in the future.”
Ms Saffioti said triple road trains would arrive in Kalgoorlie on Friday to help increase the movement of products between the states.
They are usually banned for safety reasons between WA and SA but will be temporarily allowed while rail freight is disrupted.
A “land bridge” has also been established, allowing goods to be moved by rail from the eastern states, via trucks through SA and then rail again between Kalgoorlie and Perth.