Davy and I headed to Holland this morning, to a town called Sluis, a forty-minute drive away from where we live in Belgium. We’ve made the trip to Sluis many times now, to stock up on baby formula and pampers, although we’ve long been ordering pampers online now. For whatever reason, baby products are 30-40% cheaper over the border in Holland than it is in Belgium.
Today was cloudy and dreary unfortunately, but it didn’t matter to our little Noah, who slept for most of the ride there. He knocked out so hard that his pouty pink mouth hung open, because he’d woken up way early and with more energy than Davy and I had combined.
So our plan for the day was to save some money while getting things we need and having lunch somewhere and hot chocolate somewhere else, before returning home. When we got to Sluis, Noah of course magically awoke and we were off to the shops first. Davy and I had a plan and a good parking space, and despite the threat of rain we were hopeful the sun would come out to play at some point.
The sun never came out and the first shop we went to was no sunshine to our day either. In this store, the equivalent of a Duane Reade or Walgreen’s, there stood only two cans of each stage of baby formula on the shelf in the baby aisle. Strange, because the shelves were always fully-stocked and the formula usually came in packs of three. Two cans will last me three weeks with Noah. We asked a nearby salesperson, “Ann”, for however many cans she had back in stock, because we needed a few months worth.
With sincere regret Ann told us we could only purchase one can of formula per person now, as of a month ago, in Holland. What?! Why?! That’s exactly what we asked and Ann’s response was (in Dutch), “Because the people from China are buying it all up.”
When Ann said “China” I swear people in the store looked at ME and my eyebrows shot up and I felt for a hot second I should shout that I’m not Chinese. I didn’t, and instead calmly picked up the two cans we needed for Noah and tried to rationalize in my head what the Chinese connection was.
When we got to the register, we were told by the cashier that it was one can per household and not per person. My eyes must have registered non-Chinese hate because the nice cashier lady let us ring up the two cans on separate receipts and walk quietly away. It was the principle! So in dramatic fashion, I made it my mission to score as many cans of baby formula as possible in the tiny, I mean tiny, town of Sluis. We did manage to get a few more, but then were thwarted by a a cashier who recognized us “from the morning.” How mortifying, as if security guards would come and take us away to baby jail.
In the end, and over lunch, Davy and I decided Noah doesn’t have to be on formula until he’s 18 months old anyway. Noah will be able to handle whole milk in a couple of months if he was able to eat a portion of my lasagna for lunch today. He will love whole milk!
Besides, babies in China need it more. We discussed that over lunch too. I didn’t understand why a “Chinese Milk Scandal” in 2008, would cause Holland to ration it’s baby formula sales in 2013.
I understand how new Chinese parents would mistrust Chinese baby formula companies as a result of 2008, and why they’d want Western brands. But why the sudden rationing (in parts of the UK and Germany too)? Here’s a map that a blogger in Hong Kong created, about where China is getting their baby formula from post-2008:
There are actual smugglers working in rings. I believe it’s because last year, 2012, was the Year of the Dragon and there was a baby boom in China as a result. I could be wrong, but I could be right. This is all based on my own trains of thought and soundless ramblings, and the fact that I know Chinese zodiac signs are taken very seriously over on their mainland. But this sudden rationing felt strangely uncomfortable and invasive, considering I’m a control freak by nature.
And dramatic, I’m very dramatic.
P.S. Lest anyone miss an important point here, China is a populated force and the ripple effects from China are forceful….