A pharmacy in Melbourne has been opening early in the morning for months, allowing bulk-buying shoppers to snap up tins of milk powder and leaving little to no supply for local parents to buy during the day.
According to The Daily Mail, the pharmacy, My Chemist, has been opening before sunrise at least 3 times a week to feed the growing demand for milk powder from Chinese consumers.
Customers are limited to 6 tins each at My Chemist, but it's easy for shoppers to get around the limit by going back for multiple transactions.
Chinese demand for foreign milk powder has also affected supplies from Hong Kong and the United Kingdom (UK), prompting fears of a milk powder shortage.
How did the buying frenzy start?
In 2008, the milk products of 22 Chinese dairy companies were found to be tainted with melamine -- a nitrogen-based chemical most commonly used in plastics, as well as fertilisers and concrete - sparking the 2008 milk scandal.
300,000 babies became sick, and 6 were killed.
The scandal caused widespread outrage among consumers and parents, and resulted in a loss of faith from consumers in the standards of food safety in China.
However, despite a crackdown on melamine-lacked milk products, tainted supplies continued to be found on sale since 2008.
In 2016, 9 people were arrested for producing and selling fake formula under counterfeit foreign labels.
And in November last year, more than 18,000 cans of milk powder by Xinjiang Western Animal Husbandry were found to contain expired ingredients.
Fall in consumer trust
From Jan 1 this year, new regulations that ban products not certified by the Chinese government were implemented.
About 1,400 products were removed from store shelves in the same month.
However, that was not enough to regain the trust of Chinese consumers in locally-produced milk powder, even for those under large and established local brands.
This is because the company behind the 2008 milk scandal, Sanlu, was a major enterprise. It eventually went bankrupt.
Thereafter, Chinese parents are willing to paying high prices for expensive foreign brands which they assume have passed stricter safety checks and have better ingredients.
A 2017 survey revealed that 53% of 10,000 people from 44 different Chinese cities preferred or somewhat preferred foreign brands for baby milk powder.
In foreign brands we trust, even if they're made in China
While many in China turned to imported milk formula, reports of distributors or retailers tampering with the formula surfaced, prompting consumers to seek supplies directly from overseas.
In particular, the lucrative daigou trade -- the act of buying up products overseas and selling them to Chinese shoppers at a higher price -- is booming in Australia.
Ironically, some of these popular foreign brands are made in China and can be bought within China.
Even so, Chinese consumers obsessed with "genuine Aussie" milk powder want the very products that are shipped directly from Australia.
Top image via Youtube