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Empoyees of chocolate and cocoa product maker Barry Callebaut prepare chocolates after the company’s annual news conference in Zurich, Switzerland November 7, 2018. — Reuters pic
Empoyees of chocolate and cocoa product maker Barry Callebaut prepare chocolates after the company’s annual news conference in Zurich, Switzerland November 7, 2018. — Reuters pic

ZURICH, April 13 — Swiss chocolate giant Barry Callebaut defended today its decision to remain in Russia despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which has prompted hundreds of foreign firms to halt their Russian operations.

In a video address to a rally outside the parliament in Bern last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blasted Swiss firms that continue to do business in Russia “even though our children are dying and our cities are being destroyed”.

Zelensky singled out food group Nestle, a major customer of Barry Callebaut, the world’s top manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products.

Barry Callebaut has three factories in Russia, where it employs 500 people. The country represents less than five per cent of is sales volume.

“We are here first and foremost for our employees,” chief executive Peter Boone said at a press conference to present company results.

“The war in Ukraine was started by the Russian government, not by the Russian people,” he said.

A slew of mostly Western firms, ranging from McDonald’s to H&M and Goldman Sachs, have stopped operating in Russia since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

But others have chosen to stay, such as French supermarket chain Auchan.

Barry Callebaut, meanwhile, reported that sales revenue in the first six months of its 2021-2022 fiscal year jumped by nearly 16 per cent to four billion Swiss francs (RM18 billion).

The group hiked prices amid soaring inflation that pushed up the costs of sugar and milk products.

Sales volume of chocolate and cocoa products rose by a strong 8.7 per cent to 1.16 billion tonnes.

Net profit was up 3.1 per cent at 212.1 million Swiss francs, with Boone saying the results were affected by the loss of value of financial assets in Russia, a hit totalling five million Swiss francs. — AFP

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