New measures to ensure milk supply for Hong Kong mothers
Manufacturers unveil a system to guarantee local parents six tins of baby formula a month
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Manufacturers and pharmacies have announced joint measures to guarantee local mothers six tins of infant milk formula a month, a move they hope will prompt the government to drop its export curbs.
Under the scheme, up to six coupons will be issued each month by seven major brands to local parents who sign up for a membership programme.
These coupons can be used to buy formula from designated pharmacies.
"I am confident that the measures will be sufficient to ensure a stable supply - even during the 'golden week' national holiday that starts on May 1," one proponent, Liberal Party lawmaker Vincent Fang Kang, said in announcing the scheme yesterday.
Some retailers said their business had dropped 30 per cent since a limit of two cans of formula per departing traveller was imposed in an effort to ease shortages caused by mainland traders buying the powder to resell at higher prices.
The seven main formula brands agreed to supply an additional 1.1 million cans of formula each month, while 69 pharmacies that joined the scheme agreed to keep a box of 12 tins in reserve for coupon users.
But by last night, only one pharmacy in Sheung Shui - the area hardest hit by the traders - had joined the scheme.
General Chamber of Pharmacy chairman Lau Oi-kwok said he hoped more pharmacies would join later.
The extra 1.1 million cans pledged by the Infant and Young Child Nutrition Association - formed by the seven big formula brands - is on top of the four million tins usually imported into the city each month.
"According to the number of babies born in Hong Kong, the 1.1 million cans per month should be sufficient to feed all local babies," association president Clarence Chung said.
When necessary, the makers said, they would step up their deliveries to retailers from weekly to daily, and would import stock by air instead of by sea.
The ordering hotline capacity would also be boosted, they said.
Fang said he hoped the government would review the two-tin restriction swiftly after the measures proved successful in ensuring the supply of infant formula for local mothers.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man initially said he wanted the curb - which took effect on March 1 - to continue for at least a year, but later promised to review it after six months.