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Forget A2 Milk: Professional daigou shoppers buying up face masks to send to China

Lucy Dean
·3-min read
Close up portrait of a man using pm 2.5 pollution mask in the street of a big city coronavirus concept
Daigou traders are sending face masks to China. Image: Getty

The professional shoppers dubbed daigou shoppers have switched from buying up and exporting milk powder to purchasing face masks as the coronavirus crisis continues in China.

Daigou shoppers are individuals or syndicates of shoppers who purchase goods in Australia to send back to and sell in China, with the cottage industry estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.

And now the traders are turning their efforts away from A2 Milk and towards face masks and sanitary supplies, the president of the Australia China Daigou Association (ACDA) Dr Mathew McDougall told Yahoo Finance.

“There are a number of factors here. Firstly supplies have been exhausted in China. Secondly, many people are not able to get out to the shops and are relying on deliveries where possible,” McDougall said.

“Thirdly, Australian products are seen as high quality and clean - so demand for Australian products is on the rise because Chinese people want products they can rely on that they know are premium quality,” he said.

Some provinces in China, including the ground zero of Wuhan, have mandated citizens wear face masks while in public, and usage is also widespread in other areas where the masks aren’t enforced.

McDougall said Chinese buyers are looking for “significant volumes” of vitamins, supplements, hand sanitisers and face masks.

“This is due to supply and demand. We saw the same with other categories in the past (i.e., A2 Milk) and now we are seeing this with health related products,” McDougall said.

“The difference, I suggest, is infant formula was driven through a commercial opportunity where now we are seeing prices increase motivated by Chinese just wanting to purchase and help their friends and family in China.”

What else is selling well?

Shopping cart in grocery store aisle
Health products are also popular. Image: Getty

Chinese consumers are also seeking health and wellbeing products, including Maiden Honey, health food bars, vitamins, supplements, skin cream and even pet food.

However, McDougall said that while the daigou community is having relatively few issues sending the products abroad, there is a “growing issue” getting some deliveries into regions.

“This is generally... parcels going into areas where the Chinese government have enforced restrictions.”

Hold up: do the face masks even work?

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Chinese customers wear protective masks as they line up single file to buy dumplings at a popular local shop on February 16, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of the deadly new coronavirus COVID-19 rose to more than 57000 in mainland China Sunday, in what the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global public health emergency. China continued to lock down the city of Wuhan in an effort to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts have confirmed can be passed from human to human. In an unprecedented move, Chinese authorities have maintained and in some cases tightened the travel restrictions on the city which is the epicentre of the virus and also in municipalities in other parts of the country affecting tens of millions of people. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to over 1650 on Sunday, mostly in Hubei province, and cases have been reported in other countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and several others. The World Health Organization has warned all governments to be on alert and screening has been stepped up at airports around the world. Some countries, including the United States, have put restrictions on Chinese travellers entering and advised their citizens against travel to China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Do people in Australia need face masks? Image: Getty

Australian pharmacies and wholesale suppliers have complained of people purchasing face masks en masse to resell, with one supplier increasing the wholesale price 1500 per cent in a bid to deter scalpers.

But while some authorities in China have told citizens to wear the face masks, Australian health authorities have reminded Australians that face masks do little to prevent the spread of the virus and are most effective when they’re worn by people who are already sick.

Instead, the best way to stay well is to practice good cough and hand-washing hygiene.

That means washing your hands with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds after coughing or sneezing, using the bathroom, touching animals or caring for someone who is sick.

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