Two major infant formula manufacturers are scrambling to ramp up production amid a shortage in infant formula and toddler milk due to demand from China.
Thousands of parents have struggled for months to feed their babies and toddlers as supermarkets and chemists sell out of formula soon after products hit the shelves.
Frustrated parents say they can’t buy formula because of shoppers bulk-buying products to send to China.
Organic formula maker Bellamy’s and rival formula maker Danone Nutricia, which owns the Aptamil and Karicare brands, are under the pump trying to increase supplies amid “unprecedented” demand.
Danone says it has increased production of Aptamil Gold + Toddler by 50 per cent, and Aptamil Profutura Toddler fourfold.
“Our New Zealand factory is now producing 24 hours a day through the week, and we have implemented a weekend shift,” Danone Nutricia said in a statement to AAP on Thursday.
Bellamy’s said while it takes time to ramp up supplies, it expects stocks to improve from late November.
Danone Nutricia said it believed increased demand from overseas was putting pressure on supplies. It warned that while production had increased, there were limits to the amount of raw ingredients the company can access.
“There is only so much that can be produced each day,” it said.
Faced with stripped supermarket shelves, mums have been forced to drive for hours or ring around dozens of supermarkets and pharmacies to track down formula.
The spike in demand has forced supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths to ration formula to four tins per customer.
The shortage is being blamed in part on a Chinese “grey market” where university students and entrepreneurs are bulk-buying formula to sell to back home to families who prize the quality and clean reputation of Australian products.
Many are willing to pay a premium for genuine Australian products over Chinese products following the country’s 2008 melanine milk scandal which affected 300,000 babies.
The Facebook pages of both Karicare and Bellamy’s have been inundated with desperate queries and complaints from parents.
On the Bellamy’s page, Rebecca Martin said she was at the point of panic buying.
“What is going on is disgraceful. Either produce more or only allow 1-2 tin purchase end of story. I’m now at the point of panic buying so I don’t run out and have a even louder screaming baby.”
Amy Vindictive on the KaricareANZ page said the ration rules could be easily circumvented.
“There are limits in place of `three per customer’ but then you get a family of four come through and buy 3 tins each,” she wrote.
“There have been numerous occasions where I have nearly broke down in tears over the fact I might not be able to feed my daughter what I know works for her.”