Overseas demand for Australian baby formula leading to national shortage

A violent brawl amongst customers in a Melbourne supermarket is an all time low in the ongoing crisis.
Loading the player...

Violent scenes at a Melbourne supermarket this week are an indication of the growing issues around Chinese shoppers buying up Australian baby formula, leaving shelves empty and parents struggling to source the much-needed formula for their infants.

Employees at Box Hill Woolworths were forced to remove infant formula products from their shelves to avoid the already problematic scenes escalating this week.

Video footage on social media shows shoppers pushing, shoving and climbing over each other in order to get the tins of formula on the supermarket shelves.

Customers were thrown to the floor in violent scenes this week. (Image: Nine News.)

As customers were thrown to the floor, staff had no choice but to remove the products from the shelves, placing them back in storage.

Woolworths was quick to label the customers’ behaviour as “clearly unacceptable”, threatening to ban participants from entering its stores.

“The safety of our customers and team members is our priority and this type of behaviour is clearly unacceptable,” a Woolworths’ spokesperson said.

“We do not tolerate this type of behaviour and will not hesitate to ban customers who do not comply.”

“We will continue to closely manage flow of stock so our customers can have access to formula when they need it,” the spokesperson added.

Continues after video …

Loading the player...

Families in China put a high value on the infant formula products available in Australia, mainly because safety concerns about the baby formula available in China following a series of poising scares.

Chinese shoppers in Australia, known as Daigou, already run lucrative businesses shipping popular Australian products such as sheepskin items, food items, vitamins and beauty products, back to China at a profit. However it is the growing demand for baby formula that sees some Daigou turning their shopping into a full time job, raking them in six figures and more.

The trend has seen supermarket giants impose tins limits for customers, in some cases placing the most desired brands behind glass for access by staff only to ensure that the product remains on the shelves for those who really need it.

Customers have been filmed openly rorting the two-tin limits in supermarkets. Image: Facebook/Shane Conroy

It doesn’t seem to be working though. In late December, a Brisbane man filmed footage (below) of dozens of Woolworths customers openly rorting the supermarket’s Sunnybank’s store’s two-tin baby formula limit.

Shane Conroy posted the footage, which has been viewed over two million times, to his Facebook page.

Viewers can see at least 30 customers racing through the store, buying two tins, having their receipt checked before offloading the tins outside the store and racing back in to repeat the whole process over and over again.

Continues after video …

Loading the player...

With China removing it’s one child policy in 2015, the country is in a veritable baby boom, meaning many more little mouths to feed.

The wealthy country has a super-high appreciation of foreign products produced to a higher safety standard than those produced at home, and it doesn’t look the desire for Australian baby formulas will be slowing down any time soon.

Is it legal to send baby formula to china?

The practice of Daigou which translated means “buying on behalf of” is totally legal and growing in popularity with around 40,000 Daigou operating in Australia right now.

Just this week a Sydney man captured footage showing numerous boxes of baby formula being shipped overseas from a specialised industrial warehouse.

“More baby formula being shipped to China,” the man penned on Facebook, alongside a video showing pallets of Aptimal baby formula.

Loading the player...

The warehouse was reportedly in Punchbowl, a suburb in Sydney’s south-west, where at least 10 trucks a day loaded with baby formula were seen to leave each day.

“There is at least 150 pallets leaving Australia a day,” the man wrote.

Outraged, he went on to lament what the shortage of formula on Aussie shelves meant for parents here.

“Genuine Aussie mums are left without formula for their babies because supermarkets shelves are empty because of these scavengers,’ he said.

“I have spoken to many mums who are forced to drive around to different locations to find formula for their babies only to return empty handed because the shelves were empty.”

With the two-tin limit clearly not working, Australian supermarkets will need to come up with stricter policies around buying what you’d think is quite an innocent product.

Two-tin limits are proving easy to bypass. Image: Facebook/Shane Conroy.

Related stories