Japanese formula short after disaster

10:53, March 17, 2011      

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The price of Japanese brands of milk powder has surged from 3 percent to 10 percent in the capital of Guangdong province in the past few days.

The supply of Japanese milk powder began to run short after a devastating earthquake, followed by a tsunami, hit northeast Japan late this past week, causing a radiation leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Minamisoma.

Many Guangzhou stores have since seen a run on the Japanese milk powder products they had for sale.

"Sales of Japanese milk powder for the past two days have been equal to a week's worth of sales in previous months," said a Yuexiu district store owner surname Lin.

"Japanese milk powder has been out of stock in my store, even though prices have kept going up in the past days," Lin said. "And I really do not know when I can get any more in stock."

She said the supply was further depleted by customers' buying in bulk.

"Many people purchased more than 10 jars at one time," Lin said.

A case of Meiji milk powder, which includes eight jars, now goes for more than 2,200 yuan ($335) in many stores, a price that has risen by 70 yuan from where it was in recent months.

Chen Zhilan, a local white-collar worker, said little certainty exists over when a new supply of Japanese milk powder will arrive in Guangzhou, and she fears that will cause the product's price to rise in coming months.

Japanese milk-powder brands, including Meiji and Icreo, have become rare in many of the city's shops, she said.

"I may have to use other brands of milk powder to feed my 2-year-old daughter," she said.

The radiation leaks also roused anxiety among Shanghai parents who had once preferred giving Japanese formula products to their infants.

"I'd rather buy milk powder that's imported from European countries," said Zhou Lei, a high school teacher who used to buy milk powder from Japan for her 6-month-old son.

Also reported to be in short supply are Japanese baby products like diapers, shampoos and lotions. And the radiation scare is affecting general foodstuffs.

The prices of abalones and salmons from Japan have increased by more than 10 percent, according to the Guangzhou Association of the Catering Industry. A kilogram of Japanese salmon has risen by more than 140 yuan in local fish markets.

Japan is Guangdong's fifth largest trade partner. The Guangdong-Japan foreign trade volume reached $68.19 billion in 2010, up about 30 percent from the previous year.

Source: Xinhua
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