Song Chen, a 40-year-old Chinese woman living in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, makes about 21,000 yuan ($3,173) per shipment of expensive baby formula to China.
Chen first moved to Newcastle around three years ago, and soon jumped on the craze in which professional shoppers, known as “Daigous,” buy expensive baby formula in Australia and send it out to China, where there is a massive demand for the product, according to Daily Mail.
“We send it (baby formula) to China by aeroplane. I have lots of friends back there and they ask me for it,” she told the publication.
However, in Australia, consumers are only allowed to buy no more than two cans of baby formula in several supermarkets throughout the country, including Coles and Woolworths, to prevent a shortage of supplies. But Chen found a way to work around this limit by raiding store shelves with some of her friends.
“I have friends who when I have no time to buy it they help me. They buy at different times and different brands because you can’t buy that much at one time,” she said, further noting that she’s only doing small-time business for friends overseas. “I’m not doing big business like the ones in Sydney, it’s just to my friends… mainly.”
Thousands of cans of “white gold” — including formula brands Aptamil and A2 — are packaged in Top Warehouse in Sydney and shipped indirectly to China as well as locally.
The business claimed it didn’t “directly sell baby formula overseas,” and that it was only a “middle-man” and doesn’t ask customers questions about their process.
Asian grocers and duty free stores throughout the city sell the products to Chinese tourists who take them on a plane back home.
While the practice of sending large shipments of baby formula from Australia to China for money is legal, it has become quite controversial in the past few years. Many have raised complaints that several stores in the country are running short on milk formula.
Despite this, Chen — like foreign students from China — believe that she is helping Australia’s economy in a way.
“I think it kind of helps Australia’s economy, it’s expensive baby milk formula. Not many (Australian) people buy the expensive ones, they only buy the cheap ones, it’s all Chinese people who buy the expensive ones,” she said.
The demand for baby formula in China has prompted Aptamil to increase production by 50% in the past few months.
Woolworths, on the other hand, said it would ship homebrand products to China earlier this year.
The extremely high demand for imported baby formula — and other milk products — in China came after the 2008 Chinese milk scandal rocked the country’s market.
Traces of melamine were found in several milk products throughout the country, resulting in the death of six babies and making 300,000 infants severely ill that year alone, BBC reported.