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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Government Orders Wrigley Shutdown

The Natural Resources Ministry has ordered the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, the world's largest chewing gum producer, to stop work at its St. Petersburg factory for unspecified ecological violations.

The move comes just weeks after rival Dirol-Cadbury narrowly avoided being shut down by the ministry for "the unauthorized release of harmful agents into the atmosphere."

Ministry officials would not specify Monday exactly what regulations Wrigley had violated, but Igor Savelyev, general director of Wrigley Russia, said by telephone that the ministry's order was "somewhat misplaced" and that the company had no intention of halting production.

In the order sent to Wrigley, a copy of which has been obtained by The Moscow Times, the ministry said: "Wrigley, St. Petersburg is to halt operation and other activities on July 28."

Savelyev said that as far as he could tell the ministry was referring to the construction of a new production wing at the plant. The planned $25 million addition would double the factory's production capacity, but a web of red tape has kept the company from building the wing's outer walls, he said.

"Our plan was to start construction on areas for which we already have approval and to get approval for the construction of the walls during or after their completion," Savelyev said. "We have stopped [construction] pending approval, but this has not affected our production lines."

Earlier this month, Wrigley's rival Dirol-Cadbury had to get a court injunction to keep operating after the ministry said it had decided to shut the company's Novgorod factory, the nation's largest, because it had failed to detail changes to its production facilities and that those changes had resulted in the "dangerous," but unspecified release of harmful agents into the air.

Dirol-Cadbury said that it was to blame for not informing the ministry that it had replaced ethanol in its production process with oil and lactic acid, which it said were "no more dangerous than normal diesel exhaust."

Natural Resources Ministry spokesman Nikolai Gudkov said the two cases were routine inspections and unconnected.

Savelyev at Wrigley, however, said it was "hard to say" if the two events suggested the government was targeting foreigners operating in the chewing gum market.

"We had a similar investigation into our emissions, but no violations were found," he said.

Wrigley, which produces the best-selling Orbit brand, and Dirol-Cadbury, which makes Stimorol and Dirol, account for roughly 60 percent and 40 percent of the domestic market respectively, according to market research agency Business-Analytica.

The $100 million Novgorod factory of Danish giant Dirol-Cadbury is the largest in Russia, while Wrigley has invested $85 million into its plant in St. Petersburg, which began operating in 1998.

Wrigley's new production line is still scheduled to go into operation at the beginning of next year, Savelyev said.