Several areas in the New Territories have experienced a serious shortage in milk powder this year, with up to half of pharmacies lacking supply of one or more of the four major formula brands, a Consumer Council survey found. But while Tseung Kwan O, Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Tai Po were all found to be suffering the shortages, the figures have eased considerably from last year when up to 93 per cent of pharmacies in 10 districts most popular among formula shoppers experienced insufficient supplies. Tseung Kwan O had the most serious shortage of the major four brands - Cow and Gate, Friso, Mead Johnson and Wyeth - with shortage rates exceeding 20 per cent in all four brands and as high as 30 per cent for Cow and Gate. In Tai Po, around 44 per cent of pharmacies lacked Cow and Gate, according to the survey, released yesterday. The district also had a shortage rate of 25 per cent in Friso. In Tuen Mun, the figures were Cow and Gate (31 per cent) and Friso (37 per cent), while in Yuen Long 23 per cent of shops were without Cow and Gate and 35 per cent out of Friso. Professor Wong Yuk-shan, chairman of Consumer Council, believed the serious shortage in Tseung Kwan O was down to an increase in the number of families in the district and it having fewer pharmacies. Gilly Wong Fung-han, chief executive of the council, said the lower shortage rate in general could be because suppliers had been prepared for the high demand in Hong Kong. "The suppliers have done more, but this doesn't mean [it is] an ideal situation," she said. Lau Oi-kwok, chairman of the General Chamber of Pharmacy, said fewer mainlanders had come to buy milk powder this year as officials had cracked down on parallel-goods trading. The survey, conducted from January 26 to February 3, covered 206 retail stories in 10 districts. Hong Kong customs said the recent breaches of the two-tin restriction would not be solved with action only against mainlanders as 40 per cent of those convicted were Hongkongers. It said it would deploy more staff, including plainclothes officers, at border crossings and parallel trading hotspots during the Lunar New Year. Since the limit was introduced in 2013, there have been 9,160 cases of contravention with 86,000kg of formula seized. Some 9,204 people have been charged. Meanwhile, Shenzhen customs announced it would step actions against parallel traders and strengthen cooperation with its Hong Kong counterparts, state-owned news agency Xinhua said yesterday. Last year, the officials in the two cities busted over 20 parallel trading syndicates in joint operations seizing commodities worth more than $300 million yuan (HK$378 million).