New Zealand's Fonterra has suspended its operations temporarily in Sri Lanka after consumers continue to grow angry about food safety and the sale of Fonterra's products. Fonterra's botulism scare has prompted an angry protest outside of the company's local head office.
Fonterra has announced it will pull out its milk products in Sri Lanka due and cited the "unstable situation" as the reason for suspension. The ongoing concerns over dicyandiamide (DCD) in Fonterra's milk products in the country and the company's alleged refusal to ban the sale and advertising of products have caused the protest.
The "precautionary measure" taken by the company was needed to ensure the safety of over 750 Sri Lankan workers in Biyagama processing plants as well as head office employees. According to Fonterra's CEO, Theo Spierings, the temporary product suspension was the right thing to do.
Mr Spierings said that Fonterra has closed its Sri Lankan plants and offices and ordered workers to go home as security measure amid protests from an angry mob.
The government of Sri Lanka wants to reduce the country's dependence on New Zealand's milk products and increase domestic production. Farmers in Sri Lanka usually have their own dairy cows. According to Reuters, these farmers make up the main voter base of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaska.
Reports also said that over a hundred members of the nationalist political party of the President's ruling coalition, the National Freedom Front, were seen protesting at Fonterra's Colombo office. During the protests, riot police saw banners with slogans like "We should make our own milk powder" and "Ban toxic yoghurt advertisement immediately".
The spokesman for the group Mohammed Musammil told reporters that it was not difficult to shut down Fonterra in a country which fought terrorism. He called on the people to unite and send Fonterra back to New Zealand in the same way they came together to bring down terrorism.
New Zealand's Fonterra and Sri Lankan officials have exchanged statements back and forth in the last few weeks as they debated the safety of Fonterra's milk products.
The diary giant has rejected accusations that its milk products contained DCD or the chemical dicyandiamide. Fonterra's batches of contaminated whey protein were not included in the products sent to Sri Lanka.
Fonterra's CEO said the company is currently working with the New Zealand and Sri Lankan governments over a long-term sustainable plan to continue serving consumers in Sri Lanka and the dairy industry.
New Zealand has been in the dairy market for 35 years in Sri Lanka and commands a significant position in the market. Every year, Sri Lanka imports New Zealand's dairy products for $260 million.
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