Today, ex-Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher has died (to hopefully give her her correct title); a news story that will bring mixed feelings to the nation on her legacy. Rightly or wrongly it’s fair to say I’m rather apathetic about the announcement. It’s the news story two down on the BBC News homepage which has me rather baffled and a little incensed: Danone baby milk rationed in the UK over China ‘export’ fear
The essence of the story is that UK consumers will be rationed on how much powdered baby milk we can buy so that unscrupulous people aren’t buying in bulk to ship abroad, primarily to China. The same has already happened in other markets, Australia.
When I was in Tesco a few weeks ago, I marveled at a hastily printed sign saying sales of baby milk were limited to 10 per customer. I thought that a bit odd at the time. Now if I go there later today, there might be a similar sign saying I’m only allowed to buy two cartons of our usual milk, Aptamil! What next? A tax on fizzy drinks? Oh, wait.
Has the world gone mad?
Maybe I count within the ‘unscrupulous people’ category as I buy powdered baby milk in bulk. I buy what I know we’ll need at the start of the month so that I’m better able to budget. Now, like with so many things, by trying to do the right (and easy) thing, I’ll be forced to change my buying behaviours because of the actions of a minority.
I appreciate that the surge in demand for foreign brand baby milk follows a terrible situation where eight children died from contaminated baby milk in 2008. It probably also has roots in the ongoing self-aggrandisement of the Chinese middle classes through the acquisition of foreign brands. Despite people paying a premium for them that many can ill afford – it’s far more prestigious to be seen with foreign branded goods than home-grown Chinese brands.
But, as Baroness Thatcher once said (and don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means her biggest fan) ‘There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty.’ I know I’m talking on a very small scale, but why should the majority of us who are, at most, buying six or seven cartons of powdered milk have to now make several trips to the supermarket – at a time when petrol and other costs are sky high?! And if that’s the behaviour that Danone (Aptamil’s parent company) is actively encouraging, then it’s hardly going to nip the export of their milk abroad in the bud!
This lady’s not for turning, either!
You could be sceptical and wonder if it’s a rouse to sell more powdered baby milk, in an industry possibly as heavily restricted as to its marketing activities as the tobacco industry. (Don’t get me started on why we live in a country where every man and his dog can set up and advertise a gambling / gaming website, but to advertise and educate people on formula milk is forbidden). But whatever the driver – is restricting sales to a core market really a good strategy?
What do you think? Has the world gone mad, or are the restrictions perfectly justified to control illegal exports by a minority? One more quote from the recently departed: ‘I love argument, I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job.’
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