HK considers making baby formula a protected product
AFPHONG KONG -- Hong Kong is considering designating baby formula a “reserved commodity” to ensure sufficient supply, an official said Wednesday, after mainland Chinese who flocked to buy it sparked shortage fears.
January 31, 2013, 11:24 am TWN
Hundreds of mainlanders have been stuffing tins of the baby milk powder into large bags and boxes near train stations at the border in recent days, part of a shopping spree before Lunar New Year that starts on Feb. 10.
While business has been especially brisk recently, the so-called parallel traders have been traveling to border areas of Hong Kong from mainland China for months, sparking complaints about congestion and shortages in stores.
The traders travel to Hong Kong by train to stock up on goods ranging from iPhones to cosmetics, taking advantage of lower prices and wider choice in the city and dodging import tariffs on their return to the mainland.
Baby formula is especially popular because of concern about the safety of food processed in mainland China following a series of scandals.
The shopping spree has prompted concerns from local mothers and others.
Now the government says it is considering a lawmaker's proposal to make infant milk powder a protected item to control exports and imports.
“We are making an internal study about the proposal,” a government spokeswoman told AFP.
Authorities would be able to set the price and restrict sales if the baby formula is listed as a reserved commodity. Rice is the only item listed now.
Health Minister Ko Wing-man said new control measures could be announced this week. “If we are to limit this sort of commodity from leaving Hong Kong, we have to set a quota for it,” he told public broadcaster RTHK.
Milk powder suppliers have assured mothers they have boosted supply to meet demand.
The government announced last year it would step up border controls and ask Chinese authorities to cancel the travel permits of mainlanders who illegally engage in commercial activities.