The Australian government stepped in Thursday amid furore over Chinese shoppers buying up the country’s baby and infant formula, dpa reports.
Guardian said a massive one-day online shopping event in China Wednesday, known as “singles day”, has been blamed for an unprecedented shortage of baby formula in Australian supermarkets.
Parents have publicly complained that they have trouble finding any in shops as shoppers from China, where foreign formula can be resold for a profit, have been seen buying up tins in bulk.
The government said it was in initial talks with retailers to address the problem.
Photographs on social media of apparently foreign shoppers with trolleys full of formula sparked outrage from some mothers who say they now have to travel far and wide to find needed formula.
Sydney mother Katie Camarena spent six weeks struggling to find the required formula for her 10-month-old son.
“I have no problems with people buying formula and sending it overseas, but not at the expense of local families,” she told ABC TV.
Jessica Hay, a mother of two, said she was “shocked” when she snapped the photograph of customers Saturday with boxes of A2 Platinum Formula.
She said another woman “guarded” the near empty pellet as those she was with unloaded two trolleys filled with formula at the counter.
“I was just numb. I could not believe what I was seeing,” Mrs Hay said.
Woolworths said it will investigate why a group of shoppers was allowed to bulk-buy an entire pallet of hard-to-find baby formula from its Epping Plaza store.
“In the case of baby formula we have an eight can limit per transaction to make sure all shoppers have the opportunity to purchase the items they need,” said Woolworths spokesman Sean Ottley.
Baby formula seen as safe and healthy – particularly specialist brands from Australia – is in big demand in China after a scandal involving contaminated Chinese formula where several babies died.
Only a quarter of Chinese babies are breast-fed, according to ABC.
Chinese buyers are reported to be buying formula in Australia for 25 dollars and selling it in China for up to 190 dollars. Demand spiked ahead of China’s online sales bonanza for Singles Day on Wednesday, news.com.au reported.
Assistant Trade Minister Richard Colbeck told ABC Radio Thursday he was looking for a solution that could involve rationing formula sales to two or three tins per customer.
“Booming international demand for our high-quality dairy products is great news for our local dairy industry, but we must also ensure supply is available locally,” Colbeck said.
“I have been talking with supermarkets and pharmacy representatives today (Thursday) about ways we can ensure local parents have access to reliable supplies of infant formula.”