China's dairy industry is seeking government aid as it struggles to recover from last year's tainted milk scandal that left at least six babies dead, state media reported.
Dairy firms have 250,000 tonnes of milk powder in stock that they cannot sell even though prices have dropped sharply, the China Daily reported, citing industry chiefs.
AdvertisementThe report blamed lingering safety fears and an economic slowdown for the sales slump.
"The whole industry is facing huge challenges," Wang Weimin, a top official with the Dairy Industry Development Association of West China, was quoted as saying.
Wang and other dairy executives said one of the national industry umbrella groups, the China Dairy Industry Association, had petitioned the government for help.
This involved a request to buy a third of the excess milk powder, which could then be given to people affected by natural disasters, or those in orphanages and homes for the elderly, they said.
Before last year's scandal, dairy firms had no excess milk powder.
At least six babies died and nearly 300,000 fell ill last year after they consumed milk powder contaminated by the industrial chemical melamine, which was mixed in to give the appearance of a higher protein content.
Many parents remain reluctant to buy Chinese milk powder even though authorities have deemed it safe, industry executives were quoted as saying in the China Daily.
The problems have been exacerbated by an influx of cheap foreign milk powder, which many customers now prefer because it is thought to be safer.
The scandal came to light in September after local authorities initially covered it up, reviving long-standing fears over product safety in China and leading to recalls and bans around the world of Chinese-made products.
Twenty-one people went on trial in January for their role in making or selling milk tainted with melamine.
Of those, two men were sentenced to death and the former chief of Sanlu Group, the dairy firm at the centre of the scandal, was jailed for life.