A Chinese woman who sends shipments of baby formula back to her homeland says the practice is ‘good for Australia’, despite it leaving supermarket shelves empty.
Song Chen moved to Newcastle, in New South Wales, three years ago and soon after began shipping boxes of the milk powder back to China, where it is in huge demand.
The 40-year-old admitted she gets around limits imposed on buying baby formula at Coles, Woolworths and chemists by raiding shelves with groups of her friends.
And photos sent reveal the full extent of China’s thirst for baby formula and the process professional shoppers, called ‘Daigous’, go through to send it overseas.
‘We send it (baby formula) to China by aeroplane. I have lots of friends back there and they ask me for it,’ Ms Chen said.
‘I have friends who when I have no time to buy it they help me. They buy at different times and different brands because you can’t buy that much at one time.
‘I’m not doing big business like the ones in Sydney, it’s just to my friends… mainly.’
When asked how much she makes per shipment Ms Chen refused to give a specific amount, saying ‘it just depends’.
But messages show she tells her friends she makes close to $21,000 Yuan per shipment – the equivalent of AUD$4,000.
Aware of the controversy surrounding the booming demand for baby formula in Asia, Ms Chen defended her work, claiming it was good for the nation’s economy.
‘I think it kind of helps Australia’s economy, it’s expensive baby milk formula,’ she said.
‘Not many (Australian) people buy the expensive ones, they only buy the cheap ones, it’s all Chinese people who buy the expensive ones.’
Photos posted by Ms Chen to online social media platforms show her running friends through the process from the supermarket to her home, and even shipping.
It comes a day after the full extent of China’s insatiable thirst for high quality baby formula, and the large shipments heading overseas daily, were revealed.
Tonnes of ‘white gold’ – from leading brands Aptamil and A2 – were among hundreds of pallets found inside a Sydney warehouse earlier this week.
From there, thousands of tins are packaged and indirectly shipped to China, as well as being distributed locally, despite limits imposed by supermarkets on how much customers can buy off their shelves in Australia.
Top Warehouse, the business behind the warehouse, said it did not ‘directly sell baby formula overseas’, claiming it was just a ‘middle-man’ and didn’t ask customers about where its products ended up.
But a former worker at the factory claimed huge shipments are sent to China ‘daily’.
It’s understood many of those collecting baby formula were owners of Asian grocers and duty free stores across the city.
These stores then sell the products to Chinese tourists to take on the plane home with them.
Mike Chen, manager at Top Warehouse, said that where the formula ended up once it left the warehouse really wasn’t the company’s concern.
‘Basically what we do is we take the order off the customers and we give them what we get in from Aptamil,’ Mr Chen said.
‘Mainly, we are selling to local businesses… I believe (but) we’re not going to ask and they are not going to tell us about where their product is going.’
Professional Asian shoppers raiding shelves at Coles, Woolworths and other stores across the country has become common place in recent years.
While it’s legal, the practice has left Australian parents outraged at their now reduced access to the once freely accessible product.
So enormous is the demand from China that Aptamil has increased its production of its formula by 50 per cent in the past three months.
Earlier this year Woolworths announced it would be sending its homebrand products to China, feeding the endless appetite of the nation.
Some international shoppers are happy to pay prices marked up to 1000 per cent, so sought after is the high quality milk powder.