Formula rationing continues

By Country News on December 03, 2015

Supermarket giants have imposed further restrictions on the purchase of infant milk powder as supplies in Australia continue to wane and customers continue to be frustrated by the shortage.

Last week, Coles placed another limitation on the purchase of tins of infant formula to two units per customer.

Coles and Woolworths supermarkets in Shepparton were rationing the product last week.

For weeks, many parents have complained about the lack of stock and restrictions on some local supermarket shelves and some have even travelled long distances to source tins of formula.

Shepparton mum Amanda Harry said the rationing had altered shopping habits and restricted cost-savings.

‘‘When it was on special you’d buy in bulk to save a few dollars per tin so that’s when you’d stock up,’’ Mrs Harry said.

When formula cannot be found at the supermarket, Mrs Harry tries Chemist Warehouse, however she does have to pay a higher price.

She said the shortage was also inconvenient as parents needed to make more trips to the supermarket specifically for the product.

‘‘Parents have to shop for the formula every week or every fortnight and can only get two tins at a time.’’

Mrs Harry was also concerned for families living in rural areas and said a friend of hers was trying to source extra tins of formula for a friend who lived on a farm in northern Victoria who could not get to the larger supermarkets as often.

A spokesperson from Coles said the supermarket was working with its suppliers to increase production to meet the demand.

‘‘Coles is committed to ensuring that our customers with a genuine need for baby formula have access to this product, so we are limiting sales quantities to two units per customer,’’ the spokesperson said.

While frustrating, the shortage is not new for the Australian market with reports of the issue dating back to 2013.

The reason behind the shortage has remained: a growing demand for the formula from the Asian market and customers buying large quantities of product from Australian shelves to onsell to China.

After an incident in 2008 where eight babies died due to melamine poisoning, Australian formula brands have been sought by Chinese consumers wanting safe products that are subject to stringent quality assurance processes.

Containers of formula are being sold on eBay with some advertisements being published in Chinese and English, and one tin of Bellamy’s organic formula, normally retailing for around $23, is being sold for $55.

An industry source said the limits in supermarkets had been in place for years and predicted they would continue for some time.

In a statement released by Woolworths two weeks ago, the supermarket said the increased demand caused it to halve its ‘‘long-standing’’ per-transaction limit of eight tins per customer, to four tins.

By Country News on December 03, 2015

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