Some sources say the empty shelves in major supermarkets underscore the problem with the "oligopolistic" structure of Australia's grocery industry. It is a fact that Coles and Woolworths control 66 per cent of Australia's grocery retail market; more than Aldi, IGA and all independent outlets combined. The duopoly has exacerbated the disruption caused by the rapid Omicron outbreak, says Macquarie Business School senior lecturer, Prashan Karunaratne.
Surging Omicron infections in nearly every state and territory have crippled supply chains by forcing workers in processing and packaging, transport and distribution, and supermarket staff who fill shelves into isolation. Consumers have reacted with panic buying, going without, or looking for alternative supplies.
Dr Karunaratne said Australia's supermarket duopoly put consumers in a precarious and unique position compared to other developed economies. "The usual supply chain issues, during some sort of crisis or otherwise, are a little more pronounced in Australia's case because we have a more concentrated market structure in this grocery chain space," he said.