All Fiji-based water bottling firms, particularly publicly-listed companies, have ceased sales of the commodity to retailers and wholesalers until the excise duty issue is resolved with government authorities. Industry spokesman Jai Dayal, the director of Dayals (Fiji) Artesian Waters Limited – bottlers of Island Chill, says submissions have been made to the interim Government to support them rather than holding them back.All ten players in Fiji’s bottled water industry will make written submissions to the interim Minister for Public Utilities (Water & Energy) Mahendra Chaudhry to express major issues they now face with the increased tax on bottled water exports. Dayal confirmed after their meeting with Chaudhry in Suva this morning that all submissions are to be made by Thursday this week.
Local bottlers of artesian water last week decided to immediately cease production in retaliation to the increased duty of 20 cents per litre duty imposed on bottled water exports and those for domestic consumption as well. They collectively agreed that this would be their stand until what they described as an “extraordinary attack” against the bottled water industry was resolved.
“We’re now been told to make individual submissions to the minister (Chaudhry) so he can consider our case,” Dayal told Fijilive. “We have to convince him that the increased duty is too costly for us and we have to get this done by Thursday so he can table it in Cabinet’s next meeting,” he said. “We have to convince him that the 20 cents per litre is too costly, unprecedented and unaffordable.”
Fiji Islands Revenue and Customers Authority (FIRCA) chief executive officer Jitoko Tikolevu said Chaudhry reietarted his submission to Cabinet saying mineral water was a scarce resource and that the industry must give back a fair share to the resource owners and Government.
He added imposing excise duty and export duty were just examples of ways this could be achieved. “Given the urgency to resolve the matter, Minister (Chaudhry) has asked the industry to come up with detail submissions for his consideration and he will then make recommendations to the Cabinet at its 15 July 2008 meeting,” Tikolevu said.
Dayal said for his company alone, the 20 cents per litre imposed on bottled water exports meant an extra 30 per cent per litre on the company’s operating expenditure. “In some cases, our operating costs go up as far as 45 per cent and that is substantial given that our margin is fairly small,” he said.
These ten bottlers met Chaudhry today: Warwick Pleass of Pleass Beverage in Walu Bay, Suva; David Roth of Fiji Water; Anuj Patel of Flour Mills of Fiji’s VTY; Steve Johnson of Mr Pure; Jai Dayal of Island Chill; Mohammed Altaf of Aqua Pacific; Mohammed Nafiz of Diamond Aqua; Jilyin Wong of Tappoos Beverage; Sam Ahmed of Fresh Spring Limited; and Ritesh Naidu of Mineral Waters of Fiji.