Ah, that first drink from the bottle of Fiji water that you purchased in little store in Smith. Maybe you’ve been waiting through an entire class for that big gulp of boutique h2o. You’re aware that people notice the bottle. You’re aware that celebrities ask for it by name. Maybe you’re aware that Ms. Mary J. Blige will not sing unless she has this specific brand name of water at the ready. You laugh incredulously at the thought and toss back a slug of “untouched” artesian well goodness, maybe imagining the beauty of the land from whence it came. After all, you’ve seen those beautiful commercials of privileged travellers landing on the waters of the archipelago in a private Cessna. What a feeling!
Are you aware of the process of producing this plastic encapsulated wonder? Are you aware that accessible and clean water is unavailable to over 1/3 of the Fijians whose land this water is extracted from? Proceeds from the sale of the water go to development of Fiji, though how much of a percentage of revenue is unclear. Since the land where the aquifer was found is on national park land, no one can claim ownership but the government. The money the government makes is a mere 1/3 of a cent per liter of water. This is not much for a resource that accounts for over 20% of the country’s exports. The rest of the profits go to the American owners of Fiji.
As high as their profits are selling the number 1 bottled water in the USA, Fiji announced this week that they will be halting production in Fiji due to an a heightened extraction tax. The former tax of 1/3 cent per liter has been hiked to .15 per liter in the federal govt. of Fiji’s new budget. This evidently was such an extreme hike for the company that they are willing to forget their commitment to the people of the country and pull out entirely, leaving over 400 people of Fiji jobless.
The reactions to this have been varied, of course. Hollywood loves it Fiji water and everything product fetishism has suggested the water represents. The image the owners have long presented of Fiji being a carbon negative company and the respect and stewardship of the environment in which they operate may now be quite tarnished.