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Mainland purchases push up milk formula prices: lawmaker

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Imported infant formulas are getting more pricy and difficult to find because businesses are reselling them to mainland China for profits, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said yesterday.

The rises in prices come despite Taiwan's recent tariff concessions on the imported formulas and an increase in import volume of the products, Chen pointed out in a joint press conference with his DPP colleagues Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) and Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬).

Investigation by the lawmakers found that some local agents and retailers shipped imported milk powder to China through channels such as ferry transportation between Kinmen and the mainland and sold them on online shopping websites, Chen said.

“Taiwan's tariff concessions on formulas benefit infants on the mainland,” Chen pointed out.

Yeh pointed out that in one case, a sellers at the mainland online shopping site Taobao.com (淘寶) offered a 900-gram can of imported formula for NT$833 in December, higher than the market price in Taiwan (NT$659) but still lower than market price in the mainland (NT$1,116).

A lot of Chinese online sellers emphasize their products as “imported and delivered” from Taiwan to advertise their safety and competitive prices, Yeh added.

Lin stressed that it is a matter of national security when local infants cannot get milk formula. She called on the government to address the issue.

In response, Liu Ching-fang (劉清芳), director-general of the Executive Yuan's Consumer Protection Commission, said that the recent tariff concessions on milk formula have already ended. During the concessions, imported formula prices dropped by NT$5 to NT$14 per can in malls. Prices went up in pharmacies because they also provide consultation and formula modification services, Liu said, adding that the minister of economic affairs is working to determine the reasons behind the price hikes.

A substantial number of Chinese parents have grown suspicious of mainland-produced milk after the melamine-tainted milk scandal in 2008 that killed six children and sickened some 300,000. Enthusiastic milk shoppers from China have caused milk shortages in Hong Kong, Macau, Australia and New Zealand.

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A man pushes a trolley piled with milk formula at a ferry terminal in Kinmen, yesterday. Investigations by lawmakers found that some local agents and retailers shipped imported milk powder to mainland China to sell on online shopping websites for marked-up profits. (CNA)

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