No flour. No rice. No milk. No meat.
Dora Kordos saw it happening in Melbourne but never thought the spread of panic buying would reach her.
She even laughed when supermarkets in the big smoke were forced to put limits on food, tissues, and toilet paper because of people hoarding stock.
But once Melbourne’s shelves were bare, city-dwellers turned their focus on regional Victoria, including her own town of Kinglake.
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ABC Radio Melbourne was inundated with calls on Tuesday from people in Kyneton, Woodend, Ararat, Leongatha, Daylesford and Castlemaine, who were outraged that people from the city had travelled hours to clear out supermarkets in their region.
FoodWorks at Kinglake has been inundated with people from out of town for days. (Supplied: Dora Kordos)
Ms Kordos’s family owns a FoodWorks supermarket, north-east of Melbourne, and she said the out-of-towners began arriving on Friday.
“We’ve seen people from Essendon. People we’ve never seen before. Somebody shared on the Eltham Facebook page that we were fully stocked and we’ve been inundated from all over the state,” she said.
“It started on Friday but it ramped up this week. Monday’s takings were three times what a normal Monday would do.”
At the start of the week, 10 boxes of chicken sold out in two hours.
FoodWorks owner Dora Kordos limited customers to two packs of meat each but it was not enough to stop it almost completely selling out. (Supplied: Dora Kordos)
She has ordered 30 more boxes of meat for Wednesday but has been told she will be lucky to get five because suppliers are so stretched.
“It’s been decimated. I haven’t eaten today. Just coffee.”
There is no flour left, no rice, no potatoes, no bread. A small amount of pasta sits on the shelves because she limited customers to two packets each. Eggs are beginning to sell out. The milk has gone, the mince is “like gold”.
Kinglake Community Foodworks is at Kinglake Community Foodworks: We ask our customers to show compassion, support and respect to our staff members and others during these tough times. We are working hard to ensure we have stock on our shelves however our deliveries have been cut back. We cannot control if a particularly product is unavailable due to the current conditions and we are doing our best to ensure we have supplies for you all. So please be kind and together we can get through this.
“We’ve pulled all our specials because people were hoarding it,” Ms Kordos said.
She said some locals had begun to panic buy after seeing the FoodWorks, which is the only supermarket for 30 kilometres, being stripped by visitors.
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“You can’t have a swarm of locusts in your store, stripping it bare and not have anything for your regular customers.”
Woodend Coles was also stripped bare by shoppers on Tuesday. Locals said most of the food was taken by people arriving from Melbourne, an hour away. (Supplied)
Pasta, canned food, meat, and frozen vegetables were all limited to two packets per person, which angered a few customers.
Ms Kordos said her staff had been verbally abused by customers, including one woman calling a staff member a “f**king bitch” for not letting her have more pasta.
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“We have signs and people still tried to buy more. People say I’m buying for my neighbour, my father, my brother,” she said.
People have taken to social media to ask local supermarkets to only sell to locals, but Ms Kordos said that was unrealistic.
“We’re in business to make money, let’s be honest. How do you police it? I don’t know if it’s legal to turn people away. The best we can do is limit,” she said.
But people had tried to fool her; a three-month supply of toilet paper sold in two days last weekend so a man she had never seen before asked if there was any out the back “for locals”. She turned him away.
“We’re a small community. We’re not a major city store, we didn’t expect this.”
‘No fundamental shortages’, Woolworths CEO says
Advocacy groups have warned disadvantaged people are the hardest hit by the supermarket shortages.
Many cannot afford to buy in bulk and are worried some supplies might run out.
The chief executive of Woolworths Group, Brad Banducci, said the “surge buying”, which had accelerated since the weekend, was not necessary because there were “no fundamental shortages”.
“We have enough product in Australia to feed all of our customers,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne’s Mornings program.
“If we all buy what we need and treat our team with respect we will rapidly get back into full supply or 99 per cent of supply of most of the products our customers have come to enjoy.”
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