Remote northern Indigenous communities will no longer have to pay more than the rest of the country for baby formula, thanks to a new deal with an Australian food supplier.
The Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) reached an agreement with Wattle Health Australia to supply formula for $30 to 28 remote communities across the Northern Territory and far north Queensland, the same price as in urban supermarkets.
While the primary recommendation remained that infants receive breast milk, for some mothers it was not possible and the formula would provide a consistent alternative, said ALPA’s chief executive Alistair King.
“The contract is going to give us a consistent, reliable supply, which is something we haven’t had before,” he said.
“It means that mums will know that we’ve got a premium product on show in our stores all the time and that you know it’s a good affordable price and a good quality Australian product.”
Mr King said as well as issues with consistency of product, in one remote community the price of formula had been raised to $60.
“If they’re only buying a couple of tins and by the time you freight it up and if they’re putting a standard margin on it then it all adds up, it all compounds,” he said.
“It’s the thing with pricing in remote communities … you haven’t got the same volumes [as commercial supermarkets].”
$70 cake sold in Borroloola
Food pricing in the remote community of Borroloola came under scrutiny earlier this year, when it was discovered the store was selling cake for nearly $70 and corned beef for $8.60.
Wattle Health Australia wanted to help Indigenous communities access the formula at an affordable price, said co-founder Lazarus Karasavvidis.
“We are proud to be part of such a meaningful initiative with ALPA and their Queensland retailer Island & Cape that is aiming to close the gap in health for Indigenous Australians,” he said.
The head of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT) said the agreement was a “fantastic outcome”.
“I’ve experienced personally where babies were provided with juices and other sweeteners in their bottles,” AMSANT chief executive John Paterson said.
“Hopefully parents and families will find this new formula, at a reasonable cost, will be a much better choice.”
Mr Paterson also said given the importance of infant health to future development, there could be long-term benefits of having the formula readily available.
This is one small step for closing the gap and it’s a tangible outcome,” he said.
“I put the call out there for the rest of the food industry to have a look at this partnership and have a few more wanting to provide similar support and assistance.”