Fiji Water Co. LLC, a company that's long faced the ire of some environmentalists, might be looking for a new aquifer. President and Chief Operating Officer John Cochran announced Nov. 28 that the Los Angeles-based company would shut down its factory in Fiji today, after the government there announced that it would impose a 15-cent-per-liter tax on water bottled at locations where more than 3.5 million liters per month are extracted. Fiji Water, which currently pays 1/3 of a cent per liter, is the only bottled water producer in Fiji affected by the tax. Cochran added:
As a leading exporter, Fiji Water has contributed greatly to the Fijian economy. We represent more than F$130 million in export revenue for the country and employ nearly 400 Fijians at our facility. Our investment in Fiji has created millions of dollars in value through direct employment and with our supplier network. We currently pay millions of dollars in duties and income tax to the government. We also contribute over F$1.8 million dollars annually in royalty payments to the Yaqara Pastoral Co. Ltd. and another F$250,000 annually to a trust that supports the six local villages surrounding our facility. In addition, our company and the Fiji Water Foundation have worked tirelessly to help improve the quality of life for the Fijian people, including an annual investment of F$1 million to bring clean water to local villages, improve education, and provide access to health care services for those in need. We consider the government's current action as a taking of our business, and one that sends a clear and unmistakable message to businesses operating in Fiji or looking to invest there: The country is increasingly unstable, and is becoming a very risky place in which to invest. Fiji Water remains willing to work through this issue with the Fiji government, as it would be our preference to keep operating in Fiji.Mother Jones, which has been critical of Fiji Water's business plan, is reporting that Fiji Water might have a back-up source of water in mind. Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of Fiji Waters, already own the Spring Fresh brand of bottled water in New Zealand, and "Spring Fresh's website now uses many of the same selling points as Fiji Water, including a claim that the company's operations are 'carbon negative,'" according to Mother Jones.