Following extensive press coverage of a cartoon featuring the Prophet Mohammad in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the boycott of Danish products in the Middle East is now almost total, as sales have come to a standstill.
In Saudi Arabia, Danish companies report that sales have come to a complete stop. Saudi Arabia has had the strongest media reaction: the boycott has been the main story over the weekend. A key topic to emerge in the media in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is a Danish survey revealing that 79% of Danes believe that no apology is necessary.
Danish products have been removed by at least six UAE supermarket chains while most Saudi importers have cancelled all orders, Danish companies have reported. In Kuwait, Danish companies estimate that their products have been removed from the shelves of around 33% of stores, while in Qatar the majority of stores have removed Danish goods. The issue has spread to Bahrain, where four or five supermarkets have removed Danish products from their shelves and sales have ceased.
Arla Foods, who before the boycott enjoyed an annual turnover in the Middle East of DKK2.6bn, has said that most of the company’s customers have cancelled their orders, bringing sales to a halt.
The company will soon decide whether to suspend production for the Middle East. “Once sales in the Middle East have come to a standstill, this inevitably has consequences for the production,” says Jens Refslund, director of Arla’s production division. “A decision about what we do next will be taken within the next few days. After that, staff will be informed.”
Denmark’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Hans Klingenberg, has released a statement saying that Denmark respects all religions. As the Saudi press have not carried the release, Arla have paid for it to be printed as an advertisement in leading Saudi newspapers.
“This is what we can do,” explained executive director Finn Hansen, Arla Foods. “Based on our many years of experience in the Saudi market, however, we’re not particularly hopeful that it will achieve the desired effect. The only thing that can stop the current boycott of Danish products is a direct dialogue between the parties involved.”