The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Unilever ally shut in Nepal

Kathmandu, Feb. 21: A company that accounts for more than a third of Unilever Nepal's production is being shut down from tomorrow in the wake of an indefinite blockade enforced by Maoists.

Sources in the company confirmed the development to The Telegraph. Although the blockade forms the immediate context for the shutdown, the company has received threats from the Maoists.

The unit, located in the industrial township of Hetauda in the central Terai region close to Unilever's wholly-owned main production centre, contributes 35 per cent of the output of the multinational's Nepal outfit.

Last month, the Maoist-affiliated trade union had issued a closure notice to some 16 companies, including Unilever Nepal (then known as Nepal Lever) and Surya Nepal, a unit of Calcutta-based ITC Ltd.

The notice had set February 22 as the deadline for closing down. The factory-owner, an office-bearer of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries, apparently decided to down shutters after receiving a telephone threat from the rebels.

Unilever's main production unit will continue to function until further notice, sources said. But closure of other units of the multinational was imminent as none of them had any raw material left.

'Thanks to the blockade, we have not received any raw material from India for the last 10 days,' a source said.

They said stocks of finished products, which could not be shipped to distributors and stockists because of the siege, were accumulating in the factories. Stocks meant for export were also piling up in the warehouses, putting the parent company under pressure to review its plans.

Unilever provides direct and indirect employment to more than 3,000 Nepalis. It also supports a number of ancillary units, over 150 stockists and nearly 27,000 retailers across the Himalayan kingdom. The company pays out in a year over Rs 300 million in the form of distributor commission, trade/retailer margin and local transportation cost.

In August last year, 22 companies, including Unilever Nepal, had shut down for a month following threats from the rebels. They reopened after the rebels withdrew their threat in September. The closure was hastened after the main production unit of Unilever was targeted by the rebels who detonated three powerful bombs, resulting in losses worth crores of rupees.

Trucker shot

Kathmandu, Feb. 21: An Indian truck driver was shot by Maoists for defying the blockade, reports PTI.

A resident of Nagpur, Nripad Kumar Parveji was returning to India after delivering goods in Kathmandu. Official sources, however, declined to confirm the truck driverís nationality.

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