There are fears the price of baby formula is set to soar in Australia, after the Treasurer gave the green light for the country’s largest dairy farm to be sold to Chinese business interests.
The sale of Tasmania’s 17,800 hectare Van Diemen’s Land Company to Moon Lake Investments could mean domestic prices of milk and milk products will increase, as the new owners are expected to redirect supply to desperate buyers in China.
Over the past 6 months, supermarket shelves in Australia have been stripped of formula, which has been sold and shipped to China.
Demand For Australian Formula Skyrocketing
Demand for Australian baby formula skyrocketed after a food safety scandal in China in 2008. The incident involved milk and baby formula being adulterated with melamine. At least 6 children died and approximately 300,000 became ill after consuming contaminated milk products.
Since then, Chinese nationals have been buying up large amounts of formula to sell on the black market. Tins of formula that would normally retail for $25 are being sold for a whopping $100 each.
Many large retailers including Chemist Warehouse, Priceline, Aldi, Coles and Woolworths have introduced limits on the number of tins per customer. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been successfully enforced, and shelves are often stripped bare as soon as new stock arrives.
What Does This Mean For Australian Families?
While the injection of capital into Australia’s smallest and poorest state could impact on local jobs and contribute to economic growth, there are those who are concerned selling the Van Diemen’s Land Company will mean increased prices on baby formula and other milk products in the future.
While there are a number of reasons why women don’t continue to breastfeed babies under the age of one, the rising cost of formula and the shortage is likely to affect many Australian families. With current rates of breastfeeding in Australia after four months at around 40%, and 15% after 6 months, it’s no wonder families are concerned about a potential price hike.
Parents of toddlers have less to be concerned about, as the World Health Organisation and Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (who set the Australian Dietary Guidelines) both state toddler formulas or ‘follow on milks’ are unnecessary and aren’t required for healthy children.
Mothers who wish to breastfeed but are facing challenges may choose to locate local breast milk donors through peer to peer groups. Community breast milk donation has increased in popularity over the last few years as women seek opportunities to continue giving their babies breast milk if they are unable to themselves.
Milk banks are sadly lacking in many countries around the world. Although, there has been an increased awareness in recent times that milk banking should be more widely accessible for all babies and young children, not just for premature babies as is often the case.
What Can You Do?
If you believe your family may be affected by the formula shortage or increased prices in the future, there are a number of things you can consider:
- If your child is over 12 months of age, toddler formulas aren’t necessary when they are eating a healthy range of foods. Breast milk is an appropriate source of nutrition for a toddler (read about now much nutrition is found in breastmilk after the first year here), and the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding up to the age of 2 years and beyond. Is toddler milk a waste of money? Find out here.
- If you’ve weaned your baby, you might like to consider relactation, which is the process of starting lactation again after your milk supply has decreased. You can read more about starting to breastfeed again after stopping here.
- You may like to source donor breast milk. Some women are able to access donor milk through friends or family, others source donor milk through groups such as Human Milk For Human Babies or Eats on Feets. If you have concerns about milk donation being safe, you can read this article.
- If you’re fortunate to live in a country that has milk banks, find out if you are eligible to source milk. Many countries limit milk bank donation to premature or sick babies, but there are some who will donate regardless of age or health status.
Recommended Reading: If you want to switch from formula to another milk (but not breast milk), make sure you read BellyBelly's article on unsuitable breastmilk substitutes, so you make an informed choice for your baby.