Baby formula shortage: Former bulk buyer says government should crack down

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A Melbourne father-to-be says the government should block people posting baby formula overseas despite previously sending tins of the product to China.

A Melbourne man who admits to sending baby formula to China says the government should crack down on the practice as demand for the product fuels a shortage in Australia.

The spike follows a number of deadly formula scares in China, including one contamination incident in 2008 that killed six babies and made 300,000 others sick.

Alex Jiang, 25, told SBS News that he had in the past sent tins of baby formula to a friend in China.

"I don’t really remember how many [tins of milk formula] I sent," he said. "Maybe about two boxes…once or maybe twice a year."

He said others sold baby formula for profit and could make up to three times the retail price.

Mr Jiang, who is now expecting a baby with is partner, blamed postal services for the problem.

"Governments should stop courier companies from sending any baby formula to China," he said.

He said the shortage was a concern.

“I’m going to be a father so I'm starting to worry about my baby…if he or she will have enough baby formula to support them growing up.”

High prices

Onsellers of baby forumla are turning to sites such as eBay, using ads in English and Mandarin to offer products for as much as $190 a tin for the a2 formula which normally sells for about $30 - a markup of more than six times the Australian price.

On Tuesday, a tin of Bellamy's Organic infant formula was listed for $150. Its recommended retail price is $24.70.

The a2 Milk Company says demand for its products - which are manufactured only in Australia and New Zealand - has skyrocketed over the past six months, forcing it to ramp up production.

The company already exports to China, but some Chinese still prefer to source what they need from Australia because they fear counterfeit products.

Bellamy's Organic - which manufactures solely in Australia - has seen its Facebook page bombarded by angry local customers.

Some mums want to know why an Australian company built on the back of Australian customer loyalty isn't putting its local market first, and is still exporting product to China and elsewhere.

Other mums appear to be at their wits' end, unable to satisfy their babies with other brands.

"It gets really desperate when you've reached the bottom of that last tin and you've been waiting two months without any stores restocking, just running around in circles," Layla Vue wrote.

In the meantime, Coles is limiting customers to four cans of formula each, and Woolworths to eight cans each to help stretch supplies.

At the weekend, photos taken by an angry Melbourne mum surfaced, showing a group of people working together to fill entire trolleys with formula at a Woolworths store, leaving shelves bare. 

- With AAP

Source SBS News

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