Ten out of 18 districts in Hong Kong have faced a supply shortfall in infant formula products in the run-up to the Chinese New Year, with the situation in Tseung Kwan O said to be the most serious, Apple Daily reported.
A survey conducted by the Consumer Council on four major milk powder brands — Cow Gate, Friso, Mead Johnson and Wyeth — between January 26 and February 3 showed that baby formula of all four brands was not available in 20 to 30 percent of the shops in Tseung Kwan O, the report said.
Cow Gate products were not available at 44 percent of the shops surveyed in Tai Po, while Friso products were missing from the shelf in 38 percent of the shops in Tuen Mun.
Consumer Council Chief Executive Gilly Wong said some suppliers have undertaken air shipments, instead of the usual practice of sea transport, in order to boost supply.
However, the supply shortage problem could linger, she said, adding that she will support continued restrictions on milk powder products carriage by cross-border travelers.
Sai Kung District Councilor Luk Ping-choi said the opening of two new hotels in Tseung Kwan O, which primarily cater to mainland visitors, has led to more purchases of products like infant formula and diapers from people across the border.
As there are more young couples in Tseung Kwan O, a relatively young district, the demand for infant formula is understandably greater there than in some of the other districts, Luk said.
There have been reports that a residential unit at Beverly Garden, a Home Ownership Scheme housing project in Tseung Kwan O, was being used to store a large quantity of baby formula products.
According to Luk, the matter has been reported to customs and excise officials as well as the management office of Beverly Garden.
Clement Cheung, Commissioner of Customs and Excise Department, said a total of 89,000 kilograms of baby formula products were seized in 9,160 cases since a ban on carrying milk powder was implemented in March 2013.
Sixty percent of the people arrested were from the mainland, while the rest were locals. Of the cases, 8,200 have already been processed. Fines were handed out in most cases, with jail terms given in fewer than 100 cases.
Cheung said the customs will deploy more officers at border control points for law enforcement, while plainclothes officers will gather intelligence on smuggling activities at the parallel traders’ goods distribution points.
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