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Government set to crackdown on infant formula trading

Milk powder will be a 'reserved commodity' to stop cross-border traders buying up supplies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 February, 2013, 4:33am

The government is likely to announce measures to crack down on the cross-border trading of infant formula today, the South China Morning Post has learnt.

Making infant milk formula a "reserved commodity" like rice is the main solution among a basket of measures the administration is now considering, a government source said.

"We are studying the related ordinance in details in order to stop parallel trading activities," the source said after an interdepartmental meeting yesterday.

The move to add the baby product under the Reserved Commodities Ordinance may take weeks to take effect after a proposal of amendment is submitted to the Legislative Council. But it is believed to be one of the quickest ways to ban parallel trading, where people buy stock tax-free in Hong Kong to resell it in mainland China at a profit, which is widely seen as the major reason for an acute shortage and inflated prices of the products.

The government would then set a quota to limit visitors from taking more than a few tins of powder over the border. Executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who proposed the measure, has suggested that each traveller be allowed to carry two cans of formula out of the city at most.

Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong backed the amendment and told the Post: "It is the right way forward."

Other methods - such as setting up a government centralised hotline for local mothers to place orders for formulas, and blacklisting retailers who use dubious sale practices - have been discussed among various options to ensure stable supplies.

The government tightened inspections of parallel traders yesterday, with several police cars stationed outside the Advanced Technology Centre in Sheung Shui, a favourite staging point for the traders and where the Post discovered hundreds of boxes containing formula being hoarded last week.

Local mothers continued to complain yesterday of shortages of their favourite brands as they reported even larger crowds of mainland parallel traders possibly making last-ditch efforts to stock up. At 4pm, hundreds of the traders with boxes of infant formula were queuing outside Sheung Shui MTR station heading back to the mainland.

A mainland woman in her late 40s, who refused to give her name said: "My friends in Shenzhen asked me to help them to buy [milk powder]. Every time I come [to Hong Kong], I carry as many cans as I can."

Internet users said traders were scrambling to buy powder in places such as Sheung Shui, Mong Kok and Tseung Kwan O.

One local mother said over the internet that she had to travel to Shenzhen to buy a tin of Hong Kong milk powder as she was unable to buy one in the city. A rumour that a mother bought a fake tin of Mead Johnson sparked panic among Hongkongers. The woman, who allegedly bought the tin from a drug store, became suspicious as it tasted much sweeter than normal formula.

The Medical Association yesterday advised parents to change the brand of formula for their children if they there unable to get their usual one.

 

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lokuohsiung
As a father of 3, I can attest to the problems of sourcing baby milk formula. We have had to change brands 4 times in the last year due to problems with availability or price gouging. All three of our children were breastfed until they weaned themselves off it, but they still love to drink milk. I think it's shameful that local pharmacies selectively sell to mainlanders for higher profits, but even more shameful that non-parents throw in their two cents worth without taking the time to understand the problem.
However, I don't believe that creating a milk reserve will solve the problem. The simple greed and ignorance demonstrated in mainland purchasing habits will simply move them on to the next commodity ripe for buying frenzies. What's next? Nappies? Toothpaste? So long as mainlanders continue to believe Hong Kong products are better than their own, and Hong Kongers are willing to sacrifice the needs of their fellow locals for profit, this problem will never be solved.
donniemcm
Well problem will always exists.
It's just that milk formula is a sensitive issue as it touches directly health and sanitary.
The phenomena already exist with properties (whether they have too much and laundered money, whether they are restricted to buy more than 2 flats at their place), with iphone (they didn't have it sell by an authorized reseller) etc.
Main and common point is : when they don't have it, they will pay any price to have it and don't care about the consequence of the people who are mean for it.
boondeiyan
Or you could be less hostile toward mainlanders and admit that they have as much right to buy what they want to buy as you do. That's what a free market is. The price distortions and poor food safety that make it worth their while to behave as they do are not the creation of ordinary people. They are just reacting like ordinary people to the situation their/our government imposes on them. If you fail to show compassion to your fellow humans and countrymen then among other things you will entirely miss the point about what has to be done to arrive at a more efficient allocation of scarce resources.
donniemcm
You just justified people misbehavior when they are in dire strait.
You can feel compassion as much as you do understand an issue but not agree to a behavior.
I don't like to say this but look at real poor people that turn into delinquency for surviving. Will you still be happy that they steal you or attack you for surviving?
Though this is a quite extreme example compare to the milk formula issue.
low_cn
Instead of restricting milk trading, the government should encourage it, making Hong Kong the major milk powder supplier to the mainland. There is business to be made and milk powder is not a controlled item. Just import more to re-export to China. Just don't understand why the government is making a mountain out of a mole hill.
crbfile
Does HK lack ports and ships to import milk powder? Does HK lack trucks, warehouses, workers to store and transport milk powder? Why is milk powder crippling you Hong Kong? Now the Hong Kong gov't is to restrict milk powder? what a joke. the problem is YOU Hong Kong, not milk powder and not mainlanders.
donniemcm
Just ask yourself the same question about iphone.
Why there is a black market? why was it sold almost double in price? Apple is a big company they produce a lot right? HK is a big port they can get as much iphone as they want right?
Are you still right with your comments?

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