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We Want Milk! Australian Baby Formula Sold Out Due to Chinese Demand

A great demand for milk powder in mainland China has lead to baby formula shortages in different countries. Now, the shelves in Australia are empty.

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The great demand for milk powder in mainland China has led to baby formula shortages in different countries. The major milk shopping spree on China’s Singles Day has now left the shelves in Australia empty. The milk shortages lead to heated online discussions, both in Australia and in China.

Unofficial Chinese exporters are busier than ever buying baby formula in Australian supermarkets and pharmacies to ship to China. It is a highly lucrative market for them: the average price for a tin of milk powder is AUD 25 (±18 US$), but Chinese mums are willing to pay up to AUD 80-100 (58-72 US$) per tin.

Due to the high demand of baby powder in China, Australian-based Chinese, especially international students, frantically buy boxes of milk powers to sell to their Chinese contacts. It has left shelves empty in local supermarkets, triggering the anger of Australian mums.

 

“Some parents have to visit up to 15 different supermarkets and pharmacies before they can buy milk powder for their baby.”

 

The demand for milk powder recently intensified in the lead-up to Singles Day, China’s biggest shopping day of the year. It has become hard to find baby formula in many of Melbourne supermarkets such as Coles or Woolworths. Popular baby formula brands including Bellamy’s, Karicare or A2 Platinum have become particularly difficult to obtain. According to Australian news reports, some parents have to visit up to 15 different supermarkets and pharmacies before they can buy milk powder for their baby.

One furious parent reportedly was so fed up with the situation, that she snapped pictures of two women buying 50 cans of A2 Platinum baby formula at a Melbourne supermarket, and uploaded them to Facebook. “My blood was boiling for the mothers having problems finding A2 for their babies. I was feeling sensitive because I’ve got a newborn,” the woman told Fairfax Media.

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The pictures sparked heated discussions on Facebook (comment screenshots by Esposito & Fu, 2015).

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As Chinese media reported on the issue, the shortage of baby formula in Australia also became a much-discussed topic on Sina Weibo under the hashtag of “Australian Milk powder Shortage” (#澳洲奶荒#) and “Australian Mums Hate Singles Day” (#澳洲妈妈最恨双11#).

 

“20 million babies are born in China every year, and only a quarter of them are breastfed.”

 

The reason that so many Chinese parents are buying baby formula from overseas dates back to the disastrous melamine poisoning cases that affected 300,000 Chinese babies in 2008. Many Chinese no longer trust Chinese manufactured milk powder. They therefore look to buy “clean and green” baby formula from countries such as Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand or Hong Kong. Richer parents are willing to pay as much as five times the retail price for a tin of baby formula. For those who do not have the money, however, made-in-China formula is the only option.

With 20 million babies born in China every year, and only a quarter of them being breastfed, the demand for baby formula is growing rapidly.

Supermarkets and pharmacies in The Netherlands have already limited individual sales of baby formula: every customer can now only purchase one pack of baby formula from brands such as Nutrilon. In some Amsterdam pharmacies, an ID registration is required to purchase milk powder in order to avoid the same person buying different packs in different stores across the city. Some stores of supermarket chain Jumbo has set a rule that people can only buy milk powder if they spend at least 25 euro (±26 US$) on other groceries. It keeps unofficial exporters away.

Due to empty shelves, Nutrilon has now made it possible for Dutch citizens to order milk power online, with a limit of two packs a week.

The sales limits have made it more difficult for unofficial sellers to obtain large amounts of milk powder, making countries such as Australia a more attractive place to buy and sell baby formula.

 

“The penalty for unlicensed export of milk powder is up to 12 months imprisonment.”

 

When you search for “Australia buyers” (澳洲代购) on Taobao, Weibo or WeChat, thousands of results pop up. Chinese people living overseas make huge profits in purchasing commodities for their customers in mainland China.

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Even Australian souvenir shops operated by Chinese have now turned to the ‘grey market’, with boxes of formula stacked up. While supermarkets are running out of formula, courier companies have so many parcels of formula in stock that they almost reach the roof, ready to be shipped overseas.

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Australian-based Weibo netizens provide their services as ‘Australia buyers’ for customers in mainland China.
 

Several retailers including Woolworths and some pharmacies have now also introduced purchase limits to 2 tins of baby formula per customer.

In response to the massive import of milkpowder, the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources issued an online statement this month, warning unofficial exporter that the penalty for unlicensed export of milk powder is up to 12 months imprisonment.

[learn_more caption=”Statement by the Australian Department”] “The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources understands that the community may have concerns about shortages of infant formula on Australian supermarket shelves.

The department understands supermarkets are taking measures to make sure adequate stock of infant formula are available and have been talking to their suppliers. These are commercial arrangements between retailers and the manufacturers of infant formula. The role of this department is to ensure goods exported comply with the Export Control Act 1982, meet foreign government requirements, are safe and accurately described. The penalty for failing to comply with the conditions of export orders—including exporting a prescribed dairy product without an export permit and sourcing from an unregistered establishment—is up to 12 months imprisonment. If the exporter also provides false information to an authorised officer the penalty is up to 5 years imprisonment.

Background

Exports of Australian-made infant formula to China that are over 10 kg (or 10 L liquid) must be sourced from registered export establishments and export documentation is only provided where export consignments comply with China’s requirements. that the penalty for failing to comply with the conditions of export orders—including exporting a prescribed dairy product without an export permit and sourcing from an unregistered establishment—is up to 12 months imprisonment. If the exporter also provides false information to an authorised officer the penalty is up to 5 years imprisonment. Exports of Australian-made infant formula to China that are over 10 kg (or 10 L liquid) must be sourced from registered export establishments and export documentation is only provided where export consignments comply with China’s requirements.”[/learn_more]

 

“The government has to think about why the majority of people have no trust in the milk produced here”

 

On Sina Weibo, netizen Elynpao urges Chinese to think about the issue of Australian baby formula shortage: “We have enough milk in China to supply our own people. Why should we burden such a big country [as Australia], causing them to scold Chinese businessmen for earning money like that? China should really reflect on itself.”

Another Weibo netizen named MELIFE also says that it is a shame how Chinese buy up all baby formula from Australian supermarkets and sell it to China just to earn money, leaving the local babies without any supplies.

“The government has to think about why the majority of people have no trust in the milk produced here,” another user comments. “It’s a national humilition,” another commenter says: “If a country cannot even safeguard the milk for its babies, making people go abroad for it; it’s really dreadful.”

– by Jennifer Tang

featured image: http://news.china.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/640-1059.jpeg

©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    edwin castelblanco

    March 17, 2016 at 2:36 am

    looking to start exporting powder milk to china , im in the USA any info would be a great help

  2. Avatar

    Oliver

    April 24, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    New update : 1child policy is stopped… and there is a new increase of demand for Western Baby formula Brand.
    the top five infant formula firms in China are all based in the U.S. and Europe, accounting for 40 percent of the market.

    • Avatar

      max

      May 4, 2019 at 4:29 am

      It is a Brand Market you are right

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China and Covid19

The End to Zero Covid: China’s New 10 Covid Rules Are Here

“Everyone is really happy but there is a black cloud heading our way.”

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few weeks, China’s Covid measures have seen gradual changes, and various places across China have eased local rules regarding nucleic acid testing and the accessibility of public transport and venues. Now, central authorities have announced more measures that basically end the ‘zero Covid’ policy as we knew it. The ‘ten new rules’ became top trending on Weibo.

Just a month ago, on November 11, Chinese central authorities released a set of twenty new rules to “further optimize” China’s approach to Covid.

At the time, Chinese media emphasized that the new rules did not mean that China was letting go of its dynamic Zero Covid policy. Now, another ten new rules have been introduced that do indicate that the country is clearly no longer sticking to its ‘zero Covid’ goals.

After a central meeting that took place on December 6, authorities released a 10-point plan addressing changes in Covid measures. National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng (米锋) announced the measures during a live-streamed press conference of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council (#国务院联防联控机制发布会#).

On Wednesday, several hashtags related to the new measures went trending on Chinese social media, including “Health Code” (#健康码#), over 450 million views), and “Ten New Rules” (#新十条#, over 440 million views).

 
These Are the 10 Changes:
 

1: Lockdown Changes
Risk areas should be assessed and divided according to science and it should be done precisely. We should no longer see the lockdown of an entire community or residential area; instead, it will be assessed by looking at household units, buildings, and apartment floors. The (temporary) closure of areas will no longer be allowed.

2: Testing Changes
The scope of nucleic acid testing was already limited in the previous adjusted rules, but will now be further limited. Instead of RT-PCR tests, rapid PCR tests will be used more often in accordance with local requirements. Nucleic acid testing will remain in place for high-risk positions and high-risk area personnel in accordance with relevant regulations, and some places including nursing homes, schools, and medical care institutions will still require negative tests, but negative nucleic acid test certificates and health code checks will no longer be necessary for traveling from place to place.

3: Quarantine Changes
People who tested positive but are asymptomatic or only show mild symptoms can isolate at home if they meet local requirements. Centralized isolation centers will still be in operation for more severe cases or those opting in for centralized quarantine. If nucleic acid tests are negative after the fifth day, the isolation period can end.

4: ‘High-Risk Area’ Changes
If no new cases have been detected for five consecutive days, local lockdowns should be lifted.

5: Medicine Availability Changes
Pharmacies should operate normally and cannot be arbitrarily closed. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for cough, fever, etc should not be restricted.

6: Vaccination Strategy Changes
The promotion of the Covid vaccination should be stepped up for Chinese seniors, especially in the 60-79 age group, with a clear focus on making sure they get all the vaccinations they need as quickly as possible. In order to boost the vaccination rates, temporary vaccination sites will need to be set up and they will need to be local incentives to get the seniors to vaccinate asap. This was actually also mentioned in the list of twenty optimized Covid measures in November (under rule 12).

7: Medical Classification Clarity
There should be clearer knowledge on the medical status of residents and whether elderly residents have any underlying medical issues and if they have been vaccinated.

8: Focus on the Normal Functioning of Society & Basic Medical Services
If areas are not classified as high-risk areas, people should be allowed to move around freely and have access to basic medical care, and there should be no restrictions on production, work, and business operations.

9: Strengthen Safety Procedures in Epidemic Situations
Buildings [in high-risk areas] cannot block fire exits, unit doors, or community gates under any circumstances. Community management departments should have effective modes of communication systems in place to contact local medical institutions in order to safeguard the medical needs of residents, including seniors living alone, children, pregnant women, and those with underlying conditions.

10: Improved Policies regarding Outbreaks at School Campuses
As also mentioned in the previous updated rules, on-campus epidemic control must be consistent, precise, and in accordance with science. Not only can there be no unnecessarily long lockdowns of campuses, but the risk areas within campuses should be more precisely defined, and normal teaching and living outside these areas should be able to continue as usual. Schools without any outbreaks should carry on normal offline teaching activities, and capus facilities such as supermarkets, cafeterias, libraries, etc. should be open.

 
Online Responses
 

One clear online response to China’s recent ‘optimized’ Covid measures is that people are buying a lot of medication, expecting to be infected with Covid soon. Some online stores had already sold out on the Traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen (连花清瘟), a herbal pill by Yiling Pharmaceuticals which is used for the treatment of influenza as well as Covid.

Sold-out Lianhua Qingwen pills.

One popular Weibo blogger (@咖啡布偶猫) wrote: “I feel as if the propaganda has seen a sudden change in direction. During the first half of the year and the epidemic in Shanghai, everyone would get scared the moment you talked about a positive case, they wanted to fiercely chase it and thoroughly reach zero cases. Now they are propagating that we should not panic, that we should accept the reality and actively respond to it, as if it is nothing alarming. But we should still pay attention to those with underlying medical conditions, those with respiratory issues, asthma, and lung disease. If you haven’t bought cold medicine yet, do so. Right now, some places even have a limit on buying Lianhua Qingwen.”

During the December 7 press conference, Guo Yanhong (郭燕红), director of the National Health Commission’s health emergency division, emphasized that it is not necessary for people to stock up on medication in light of the announced eased Covid measures and that there are sufficient supplies (#卫健委提示没有必要囤积抢购药物#).

“After being sealed for three years, it’s all lifted in a morning, all the prices go up for Lianhua Qingwen, rapid antigen tests increase in price, and if your symptoms get serious you’re still not able to get help anywhere.”

Some jokingly suggest that after messing around for three years, the pandemic is only now really starting.

“Everyone is really happy now but there’s a black cloud coming our way, we will know in a month or so if it is going to be light drizzle or a heavy rainstorm.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China and Covid19

Part of the Problem: Anger in Lanzhou over Covid-Positive Nucleic Acid Testing Staff

Anger, distrust in Lanzhou after community staff discovered that those coming to test residents had not had a recent Covid test themselves.

Manya Koetse

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When the people who are testing the community for Covid are actually bringing the virus into the area.

There has been unrest in various places across China over the past few days, from students making their voices heard in Nanjing and Xi’an to people locally protesting against stringent Covid measures in Urumqi, Guangzhou, and beyond.

Sunday, November 27, saw the second night of protests in Shanghai. On Saturday, crowds gathered at the city’s Wulumqi Road (read here).

Meanwhile, Lanzhou city, Gansu Province, is trending on Chinese social media.

On November 26, people at a residential area (Biguiyuan Community 碧桂园小区) in Lanzhou’s Chengguan District found out that the local nucleic acid testing staff did not have a 24-hour period negative nucleic acid test result. The staff had come to run another round of door-to-door tests after the community had been in (semi-) lockdown for eight days.

After demanding that the nucleic acid staff members would get tested themselves, it was found that one of them tested positive for Covid.

One hashtag related to the case received over 400 million Weibo views on Sunday (#兰州通报核酸采样人员阳性#).

A video that went viral on social media showed community management staff talking to a local government official, saying:

You represent the government, let me tell you something. We have discovered a problem today. The medical staff that has come to do our nucleic acid tests, not a single one of them had a 24-hour nucleic acid certificate. I demand that qualified medical staff comes to test them, and that you come up with his work permit before testing us.”

The person testing positive is a 21-year-old staff member working at the Third People’s Hospital (第三人民医院) of Chengguan District.

District authorities issued a statement on Sunday saying that they would further investigate how a Covid-positive staff member could be sent into a community without recent test certificates.

But the statement did not help prevent online anger.

The incident is emblematic of China’s current Covid troubles, that have led to dissatisfaction, confusion, and frustrations in various places across China when it comes to Covid measures.

A stream of videos on Chinese social media show clashes between local anti-epidemic workers and residents in various places.

In Wuhan, a woman called out a worker who placed fences in front of the residential building. “Where are your credentials?!” she angrily asked.

Another person shouted at a local staff member at a locked down community who was just sitting and playing games on his phone. “Explain us what’s going on,” the resident said, and the worker replied: “My job is just to sit here.”

The lack of clarity on local Covid situations and guidelines mixed with a distrust in those who are managing the current epidemic is a toxic situation that is essentially at the root of the current outbreaks of unrest and protests in various places in China.

Many people commenting on the Lanzhou issue wonder what would have happened if the Biguiyuan Community manager had not detected that the nucleic acid test results of the anti-epidemic workers had not been updated. They might have spread Covid to many other communities.

One commenter from Guangdong wrote: “I don’t really get it: I just received a text message from my town asking me to do a nucleic acid, saying that I would be held legally responsible if I would spread [the virus], but I don’t even go out. So if I adhere to your request and go do the nucleic acid test and get infected because of it, will you bear the legal responsibility? Will I be compensated for the damage?”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse 

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