Parallel trading

No plan to lift two-can milk formula limit at the border, says Hong Kong health minister

Minister refutes calls to end ban on taking more than two cans of infant formula across border, citing a lack of confidence in supply chain

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 September, 2015, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 September, 2015, 8:39am

The health minister reiterated that the government has no plan to lift the two-can limit on the amount of infant formula a person can take over the border on Monday, after the first protest against parallel trading in six months took place on Sunday.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man reassured parents that the restriction would stay in place, after the lawmaker representing the retail sector again called for the ban to be lifted earlier yesterday, saying another widespread shortage of the product was unlikely.

The ban was introduced in 2013 amid a shortage in milk powder for local parents, as traders snapped up supplies for resale across the border.

"The restriction can only be removed when we have sufficient confidence the supply chain can function and ensure an adequate supply of formula milk powder for our local babies," Ko said.

"We still see a shortage of a few popular brands, and in the past few days we have noticed the reaction of some parents who are worried what we saw in 2013 will reappear once the ban is lifted."

Asked whether the government would consider relaxing the limit or if a timetable would be set to do so, Ko said the government still needed to work with suppliers to ensure a stable supply.

Another factor the government will consider is the results of its survey of the local infant formula market, expected to be available by the year's end.

"This should give us some indication before the peak season comes during Lunar New Year," he said.

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Earlier, lawmaker and leader of the pro-business Liberal Party Vincent Fang Kang told RTHK the two-can limit had played a part in declining retail sales.

He said shortages of infant formula involved a few popular brands and were due to some suppliers "delivering the goods a little bit late".

To ensure an adequate supply, he said a card could be issued to parents to guarantee a supply of six tins each month.

On Saturday, Fang said the two-tin limit had given rise to anti-mainland sentiment and protests. A protest in Sheung Shui on Sunday targeted traders from the mainland.