Chinese demand, for Australian produced, baby formula continues to strip local supplies. Empty shelves leave mothers in Australia struggling to provide a steady supply of their child’s brand of formula. This includes brands that do not trigger serious allergic reactions and are only available on prescription under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Export of prescription formula subsidized by the taxpayer through the PBS is already illegal, but worryingly these products are available for sale in China. The Australian Pharmacy label only adds to the provenance of the product.
In 2015 the government asked the big supermarkets to limit sales to two cans per customer, but this strategy has failed as well organised groups enter supermarkets and pharmacies, repeatedly buying two cans at a time. Commonly supermarket and pharmacy shelves are empty despite the signs that say there is a limit of two cans per customer.
The financial incentives are great as evidenced by a recent arrest of a 31-year-old man on his return to Australia from China. He was found to have 4000 cans of baby formula, vitamins and Manuka honey in his garage.
Australia’s reputation as a safe producer of baby formula has caused domestic shortages, but that same reputation creates opportunities in the future if the supply of Australian produced baby formula can be increased beyond the needs of the domestic market.
Poor government policy has seen a significant decline in the dairy industry. Dairy farmers have been squeezed out of the industry by below-cost prices for fresh milk and by foreign-owned milk processors. One Nation will introduce a Private Senator’s Bill in 2019 to address these problems with the dairy industry.
We believe the government should limit the export of Australian produced baby formula to manufacturer’s who hold a license.