Danish dairy group to dismiss workers due to cartoon protests

The factory in Bislev, northern Denmark, makes cheese products for the Middle East market.

Denmark-based dairy group Arla Foods said Wednesday it will dismiss up to 10 people at a cheese-making plant because Middle East orders have slumped amid protests over a reprinted cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. The factory in Bislev, northern Denmark, which makes cheese products for the Middle East market, must lower production by 150 tons a week because of a drop in demand, Arla spokeswoman Astrid Gade Nielsen said. As a result, Arla will reduce staff at the plant by eight to 10 employees, Gade Nielsen said, adding they would be offered jobs at other Arla plants. The plant employs 150 people. She said the company had noticed "a more hesitant attitude" from Mideast customers following the reprinting in Danish newspapers of a cartoon showing Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. The dailies reprinted the cartoon on February 13 to show their commitment to freedom of speech after Danish police said they uncovered a plot to kill the cartoon's artist. The move sparked protests in several Muslim countries. Sudan's president said Wednesday the Muslim world should boycott Denmark because of the cartoon. Arla, Europe's second largest dairy company, was hit hard by a boycott of Danish goods in many Muslim countries in 2006 after 12 cartoons of Muhammad were first printed in Danish and other Western newspapers. The boycott cost the company about 400 million kroner ($72m.).