I was standing in the queue for the self-checkouts, and the woman behind me was pushing a double pram, with the cutest set of twins. They looked to be about six months old; a boy and a girl. I had been eyeing them the whole time, because I’d do anything to have twin babies. (If they’d been mine, I’d call them Brenda and Brandon, just FYI.)
Sitting on the hood of the pram was a loaf of bread, a carton of eggs, and two tins of baby formula.
Suddenly, the mother grabbed the tins and shoved them in my direction with a $50, and said, “Can you buy these for me?”
She was looking at a store manager coming her way from the main counter. I knew immediately what the issue was.
Despite her Aussiest of Aussie accents, she was still Asian in appearance, and she was buying more than one tin of formula. That was enough to attract attention.
Why? Because of the current baby formula shortage crisis that’s gripping Australia and China.
This week, Cindy Emma from Brisbane posted a video to the Coles Facebook page of women grabbing baby formula from shelves. She wrote, “Thos (sic) is what happens every morning at Toowong Coles QLD, same people every day literally running into the store fighting each other grabbing as much baby formula as they possibly can leaving the entire shelf empty laughing at me thinking it's funny when I questioned them about it.”
Australian baby formula is a highly-desired product in China, due to its exceptional quality and China’s own lack of supply. The situation came to a head in 2015, when supermarkets began imposing a four-tin-per-shopper limit, in response to the growing presence of Chinese “daigou” (personal shoppers) who would purchase Australian formula in bulk, and sell it to buyers in China at exorbitant prices.