SHOPPERS in Bahrain continue to buy Danish and Norwegian products amidst fading support for a boycott spurred by the publication of insulting cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed, it emerged yesterday.
This is despite reports on Sunday (March 15) stating that supermarkets in Gulf states had stopped selling Danish products to protest against the new publication of the cartoons in a newspaper in Denmark.
Muslims around the world were outraged nearly two years ago by the cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper and then in Norway.
At one point, the boycott was costing the second largest dairy products company in Europe and the largest Danish packaged foods supplier in the Middle East, up to BD645,000.
Arla Food saw its sales drop to nearly zero in the region when the boycott first began in February 2006.
The republication of the cartoons has reportedly sparked renewed boycotts in the UAE and Oman.
Omani supermarket chain Al Jadeeda Stores stopped selling products from Denmark, while the Union Co-operative Society, which operates a chain of seven hypermarkets across the UAE, started a similar boycott.
However, many Bahrain retailers say they don't intend to keep Danish goods off their shelves.
Jawad Supermarket dairy products manager Aziz Yousef Ali said they still offer the products in view of customer demand.
"We still sell the products and it's up to the customer to buy them or not," said Mr Ali.
"As we have all kinds of customers, including Europeans and of other nationalities, we can't disappoint them."
Jawad's store manager Kareem Jawad said many of their customers were buying these products.
"Some, who boycott, just leave them aside and select another one," he said.
"Boycotting the products here is not going to make any difference to Denmark, but it will affect business here."
Al Jazira Group manager K P Rajendran said he read about the boycott in other Gulf states, but that it didn't have an impact on Bahrain.
The company has five supermarkets across the country - in Adliya, Zinj, Juffair, Mahooz and Budaiya - and stocks a variety of dairy and meat products from Denmark.
"We still have Danish products and the boycott is not in our hands or in the hands of the government," said Mr Rajendran.
"It's in the hands of the people and ultimately the consumer must decide. At least, some customers have already decided to buy the products."
Geant Hypermarket general manager Yvan Baba said the products were available and it was a personal choice whether to buy them or not.
"We have the products and customers take them if they want," said Mr Baba.
"If they don't want to, they just walk away with no comments or reaction."
Al Helli Supermarket general manager Mohammed Abdulnabi said they never removed the products.
"We have no intention of removing the products," he said.
"People are still using them and most of them are asking for these products when we are out of stock."
Lebanon Trade Centre general manager Harish Sewani said there was nothing official ordering them to remove the products.
"We didn't get anything from the government," he said. "The products are there and we still don't have any problem with it."
Other supermarkets contacted by the GDN that stock Danish goods include Lulu Hypermarket, Ramez and Mega Mart.
However, Al Muntazah Supermarket says it would continue the ban in line with orders from the management.
"A special meeting was called after the first publication of the cartoons and it was decided by the management to boycott all Danish products," said Al Muntazah Supermarket Muharraq branch manager Timothy Vancuylenburj.
"We were directed to remove all Danish goods, mostly dairy products, from the shelves. The products were never back on the shelves since then."