July 11, 2011

A Saudi milk boycott

Is an online boycott of a dairy company another step towards greater public dissent in Saudi Arabia?
The Riyadh-based Almarai Dairy Company recently raised its prices on fresh milk by around 14 percent. Unhappy consumers are calling online for a Gulf-wide boycott. Using the hashtags #mara3i and #StopMara3i, Twitter users are expressing their support for the boycott and passing around pictures.

Images passed around on the internet include a photo of Almarai-brand milk in a store overlaid with text reading “Let their milk rot.” Another is a bottle of Almarai milk, presented as if in an advertisement, with the caption “Go to Hell My Friend. Saudi Citizens.”

Other photos have also circulated purporting to be documentary evidence of the reasons for the boycott and its results. Another features a sheet of paper that is alleged to show a decline in sales for the Almarai company in Saudi Arabia.

Almarai says the reasons for the price increase are the rising costs of raw materials, higher wages for workers, and higher maintenance and operation fees. But the Saudi government recently subsidised air-conditioning and water prices for the dairy industry – leading to a rise on profits. Almarai announced on July 11 that they were cancelling their price hike.

Organising a protest online is relatively rare in Saudi Arabia, but this boycott is the second online campaign within a month to gain momentum in the Kingdom. In June, The Stream covered the #Women2Drive Twitter campaign, following the efforts of women attempting to obtain the right to drive legally.

Thumbnail Image: Dairy cows wait to be milked at the Rob-N-Cin farm on September 29, 2010 in West Bend, Wisconsin. [Getty Images]

These are social media elements featured in this episode.