• Sat
  • Jul 26, 2014
  • Updated: 6:45pm
NewsHong Kong

Two-can limit on milk powder to stop cross-border traders

Cross-border market in baby formula leads to series of tough measures, with fines of up to HK$2 million and seven-year jail sentences

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 February, 2013, 8:44am


  • Yes: 30%
  • No: 70%
2 Feb 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 356

People departing Hong Kong will be limited to taking two cans, or 1.8kg, of milk powder in the latest government effort to crack down on trading by mainlanders that has led to shortages in the city.

The change, imposed under a legislative amendment and expected to take effect as soon as this month, was among a basket of measures announced by the administration yesterday.

Those found guilty of breaking the new rule could be fined up to HK$2 million or face seven years in jail.

But critics said the amendment would take too long, while lawmakers and mothers - struggling to find milk formula for their children - said traders may still stockpile powder and make multiple trips across the border to sell it in Shenzhen at higher prices.

Announcing the plan yesterday, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said it would not cause parallel trading to "drop to zero" but could "greatly discourage parallel traders from making a big impact".

He said the change to the Import and Export Ordinance would require Executive Council approval and theoretically could be passed this month.

Other measures were announced to help combat shortages in the meantime.

A 24-hour government hotline was set up yesterday for parents to place orders for seven major formula brands.

And mainlanders who repeatedly travel across the border with bulky packages could be blacklisted by the Immigration Department, with their names passed to the Shenzhen authorities.

Also, the MTR will tighten the weight limit for passenger luggage from the current 32kg to 23kg from Monday. Many mothers said the action was better than nothing, but some, together with a pharmacy owner, said the two-can limit may be too loose.

"There are such a large number of traders and they can each travel many times to carry their stock," one mother wrote on the internet forum Baby Kingdom.

The Hong Kong Retail Management Association said it hoped the measure would not affect the city's image as a free market and a shoppers' paradise.

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan and NeoDemocrats said the measures would not prevent parallel trading in other commodities.

The NeoDemocrats called for the abolition of the multiple-entry permit scheme for mainlanders that has fuelled the surge in parallel trading.

But Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said this was not the way to solve the problem and might lead to "negative impacts".

Executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the government could still consider making formula a "reserved commodity" like rice. But Ko said: "We think [the limit] is the best way to pinpoint the problem."


Steps officials will take to control parallel trading of infant formula

1 Amend Import and Export Ordinance to restrict number of tins of infant formula travellers can carry to two, or 1.8kg in total (done within this month)

2 A 24-hour government hotline for parents to order formula: 3142 2288 (from 6pm yesterday)

3 Lower the MTR's maximum weight limit for passenger luggage on the East Rail Line from the current 32kg to 23kg (starting Monday)

4 Monitor suspicious travellers who carry commodities in bulk and cross the border repeatedly every day, denying entry on a case by case basis



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This article is now closed to comments

China will be the largest economy soon, does it scare you when everything is fake, poisoning, hacking, etc etc...
The two can limit is good, but why wait till the end of the month? Why can't the government call an emergency Legislature meeting to pass this law now?
Even if the law is passed, it is difficult and costly to enforce the limit at the border. Are we too arrogant to follow what Macau did to ensure adequate supply for local babies?
Limit tourist entry to once a day, and the parallel traders (smugglers to be exact) will slowly disappear. This should also be done in co-operation with Shenzhen Customs to ensure Hong Kong smugglers be caught, and they should also be limited to once per day entry to China.
This is how slow HK reacts. it take a month for Executive to call a meeting to pass an order, come on! And took them a year to come up with this plan I had made up in no more than 24 hrs. Efficient civil servant ?
Public CONsultation!!!!
Kevin Lau
Allowing travellers to carry two cans of milk formula back to China is too loose to curb parallel trading. There are so many paralle traders, they still can carry extensive amount of milk formulas back to China through multi-entry permits. Inevitably, the limitation of two cans is not an effective approach to address the issue. The most effective way is to scrap the multi-entry permit scheme and turn the milk formula to reserved commodity. Under the circumstances, the unrest caused by the parallel trading will be addressed. Moreover, the local residents lived near the boader will not suffer from any nuisance caused by parallel traders.
The change, imposed under a legislative amendment and expected to take effect as soon as this month, was among a basket of measures announced by the administration yesterday.
Why the delay? Have a special emergency meeting and make it law now.
Regrettably milk powder supply cannot be normalized before Lunar New Year,which is a peak season of such demand.As the chairwoman of cross departments committee she should foresee and sum up past for policy formulation;not to response only to violent activities outburst like insulting any person carrying bags of daily necessities in public areas.
How would you expect a civil servant turned politician to move fast and think out of the box?




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