China’s upcoming Singles’ Day shopping festival has been blamed for the worsening baby milk powder shortage in Australia.

Baby food producer Bellamy’s Organic said the Chinese annual online sales event had increased bulk buying of its products, leading to shortages in the Australian market, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Sunday.

australia bb milk powder drought
Bellamy’s Organic formula being sold on Photo: screencap.

Australian supermarkets and dairy producers recently came under fire from local mothers for failing to stop Chinese buyers from buying all the infant formula stocks in local shops and reselling them in China for a profit.

Infant formula shortages stirred much public concern after a local mother posted pictures on Facebook of a group of Chinese customers snatching a pile of A2 Platinum formula in a Melbourne supermarket.

“My blood was boiling for the mothers having problems finding A2 for their babies.. If they were with babies, it would be understandable; they need to feed their kids too. But it felt like a smooth operation, like they did this all the time, ” Australian mum Jessica Hay told Fairfax Media.

The A2 Platinum and Bellamy’s Organic are among foreign baby milk powder brands popular with Chinese customers, whose increasing buying power allows them to scour the world for quality products as food safety scandals at home continue to tank consumer confidence.

Chinese mothers’ distrust of baby food produced in their own country was deepened after a 2008 tainted milk powder scandal saw thousands of babies hospitalised.

According to Hay’s photos, the A2 Platinum formula 900g was selling for AU$25 (HK$137) a tin in Melbourne. Sellers on Alibaba’s Tmall site are asking for RMB170 to RMB260 (HK$207 to HK$317) for the same product, which means they can earn about HK$70 to HK$180 a tin. Many shops were having a special promotional price for the November 11 Singles’ Day.

australia bb milk powder drought
A2 Platinum sold on with a special Singles’ Day price. Photo: screencap.

According to Business Insider, Australian supermarkets recently introduced buying limits for infant formula. However, the implementation of the limits is under question, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Meanwhile in New Zealand, whose diary products are also hugely popular among Chinese customers, no buying limits seemed to have been imposed, China’s Global Times said.

A Global Times reporter who visited several supermarkets in New Zealand was told to “buy as many as you want,” the newspaper said.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.