Bottled water giant, Fiji Water, is the last bottled water company to shut down in Fiji, following the other companies who have all shut down in response to the Fiji government's decision to impose a 20 cents per liter taxation over bottled water.Fiji Water is the second-biggest imported water brand in the United States, second only to French brand, Evian, and has helped put Fiji's name out there with its appearances in many popular television shows around the world among many other marketing mediums.
Formed in 1996, the company has been exporting water from Fiji to the US, the United Kingdom, Germany and many other international destinations bringing in millions of dollars in revenue.
But yesterday, as reported by Fiji Times Online, the company shut down its Yaqara plant 'out of frustration with its prolonged dispute with the interim Government' and joined the rest of Fiji's water bottling companies who had already shut down in response to the interim government's new taxation system.
Industry spokesman, Jay Dayal, 'said Fiji Water was the last to shut down because it had the storage facilities compared to the small companies'. Mr. Dayal said that they have shut down weeks ago because they were not doing any sales or exports.
One company is even planning to move overseas if the export sales tax stays.
The water industry has to now pay 20 cents per litre sold in the local markets and 20 cents per litre exported, a tax system which the industry says could cripple it.
Meanwhile, the closing of Fiji Water's Yaqara plant has meant uncertainty for the more than 500 workers that were sent home yesterday.
'Anxious workers and villagers expressed shock and heartbreak yesterday, worried about their future with a company which provides the pulse for this community'.
'And in an 11th hour attempt to resolve the deadlock, interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Saiyed-Khaiyum met representatives from the water bottling company in his office late last night'.
Distressed chiefs, Ratu Marika Rasuwaki and Ratu Meli Bolobolo, said 'they felt for their people whose livelihood depended on the multi-million-dollar water bottling company'. They spoke of how painful the closure was and of how 'the company had promoted education and developed infrastructure in the area'.
'"Fiji Water has done for us what no government has ever done or can do for us. Our people are employed, the villages have kindergartens and schools, they brought us piped water and recently took electricity to two villages that are eight kilometres inland," Ratu Marika said'.
A newly-built kindergarten and school in the area were supplied with stationery, library books and new desks and chairs by Fiji Water and the company had 'just completed construction of a dormitory for students that lived greater distances away to provide the option of boarding at the school and had recently equipped the classrooms with new furniture'.
But employees are not the only ones disappointed with Fiji Ports standing to lose around $40,000 a month 'if the water bottling industry will cease exporting their products at the Lautoka Wharf' apart from the 'income it would forego from the King's Wharf in Suva'.
'A statement from Fiji Water said that after the interim's arbitrary decision to impose a 20 cents per liter taxation over bottled water, the regime has refused to engage in dialogue to repeal the tax'.
The company says Fiji stands to lose 'up to $3million in export revenue each week with the shutdown of its Yaqara plant'.
'"This onerous tax would simply make doing business impossible, and would probably destroy the bottled water industry in Fiji. Yet, they refuse to take any action or even engage in any meaningful dialogue to repeal this tax," the company said'.
However, recent updates from Fiji media indicate that there is some activity and discussion taking place among government heads on the issue in Fiji's capital, Suva, but there is no confirmation as yet.