Fiji Water Might No Longer Come From Fiji

For years, Fiji Water has been touting the virtues of the water it pulls — “untouched by man” — from artesian wells in the island nation from which the company takes its name. But now the Fiji Water folks might be in over their head. They claim the Fijian government is trying to squeeze them dry with exorbitant taxes and have no other option but to pick up their operation and move elsewhere.

According to the company, they are currently only paying around 1/3 of one Fijian cent per liter in taxes to the country. But the government wants to jack that up to 15 Fijian cents per liter (around $.08/liter).

The company is laying off around 400 employees and canceling construction projects in the wake of this development.

Says the Fiji Water President John Cochran:

[The tax increase is] 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.

While Fiji Water say it has paid millions to the Fijian government, the country’s interim prime minister says it has paid less than $600,000 in taxes to Fiji:

If Fiji Water is no longer interested in Fiji, then the Fijian government, following cancellation of the leases, will call for international tenders from credible and reputable private-sector companies to extract this valuable resource.

A similar standoff between Fiji the water company and Fiji the government occurred in 2008, with Fiji Water closing down a plant in response to the government’s proposed $.20/liter tax.

The company declined to comment to the L.A. Times about what it would do if it shut down its Fiji operation. Fiji Water is owned by the same billionaire couple, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, that own POM Wonderful.

Fiji Water to stop operating in Fiji [Chicago Tribune]