Thursday, 12 November 2015

[All the tea in China, and the milk too]

Australians are known to be compassionate, hard-working, good-natured and down-to-earth. We are a multi-cultural little island, kind to our neighbours, and generally have a giving attitude. But when does our kindness run out and the line in the sand get drawn between caring and being taken advantage of? 

One such line appears to be the trend of the Chinese online shopping sensation, ChinaBuy. Taobao villages, which produce a variety of goods for online stores, are touted as the new wave to flush some cash into the slowing Chinese economy, and it doesn't look like good news for Australians.

Each village makes something different, and the cyber stores then on-sell these items for the lowest possible price to ship worldwide. (footnote 1)

Baby formula is the newest casualty in this silent global warfare. Groups of people are buying out the product in bulk to sell in the online stores, creating a severe deficit in the market and making it harder for Australian mothers to feed their children. One mother even snapped a picture of such buying, with the photos going viral in a matter of hours (footnote 2)

Katrina, mother of five and located on the Central Coast, witnessed some men buying the cartons of formula in bulk, and it "quite frankly pissed me off. Being in a low income family, we are literally living payday to payday, and could only afford (at $25 per tin) one or two tins at a time. When the shelves were empty at Woollies and Coles, that meant the bus fare again the next day. This could go for a week before we found a store that had Bellamy's". (footnote 3) Unfortunately, this isn't a random occurrence; stories across the country and now coming to light with witnesses viewing various people buying out supermarkets of their stock in a matter of hours, let alone the week. 

In a jarring juxtaposition, the formula online is actually 3 times as expensive to buy than from Woolworths. Unconfirmed reports have stated that Woolworths are meant to have a 4 -8 tub limit per customer, but with stores seemingly unwilling to enforce this, Australian mothers are left to find increasingly dwindling alternatives to A2 Toddler Gold and Bellamy baby formula. (footnotes 4, 5, and 6).

However, Australian mothers don't blame their across-the-pond counter-parts in any way for this mess; they believe the government needs to step in and address the deficit. After a contaminated milk scare, which included baby formula, in China in 2008, mothers are looking elsewhere to feed their children. This seems to very much put parents on equal footing - they just want the best for their children, and they'll go to any source to get it (footnote 7).

On a greater scope and as a side note, it's important to note the far-reaching effects. Much like when Pacific Brands (previously makers of Bonds), and now Holden (moving offshore in 2017), decided to take the global leap, the mood is equally sour amongst the Australian public about what this trend heralds (footnotes 8 and 9). 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) was already making people nervous, with concerns over the job market and access to cancer medications, to name but a few. This new development now looks to set a direction for Australians goods never seeing Australian homes.

It begs such simple questions; when a mother can't get formula for her baby, are our all our staples, like fruit and veg for example, also set to disappear? 

Food for thought, Australia, food for thought.



1. Taobao stores

2. A2 Platinum baby formula scandal

3. K. Davis, Springfield, Gosford

4. ChinaBuy - Bellamy baby formula

5. Woolworths - Bellamy baby formula

6. Currency converter

7. The Project - facebook page - video story

8. Pacific Brands moves offshore

9. Holden production moves offshore

*In case the websites remove these products, I have saved screenshots with date logs for verification.

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