If you bottle the water outside of Fiji, is it still Fiji Water?
While Westerners may think of Fiji as an idyllic tropical destination with pristine beaches and turquoise waters, the real story of the remote South Pacific island is a much different reality. As TIME reported in September, the tiny island has been under military rule since a coup in 2006, its press is muzzled and it’s economy has declined due in part to sanctions imposed by the European Union and its neighbors, Australia and New Zealand.
The latest twist in this saga involves the high-end water brand of the same name. Fiji Water announced Monday that it is shutting down operations in Fiji after the government proposed an “extraction tax” of 15 cents a liter (up from one-third of a cent). The proposed tax hike comes just one week after David Roth, Fiji Water director of external affairs, was deported for allegedly interfering in the domestic affairs and governance of Fiji.
In the company’s statement, Fiji Water President John Cochran said they are hoping to work with the junta to resolve the tax dispute, which he called discriminatory as it only applies to their company (the only company in Fiji that bottles more than 3.5 million liters a month). “The country is increasingly unstable, and is becoming a very risky place in which to invest,” the statement said.
Fiji Water, which sells their square-shaped water bottles in more than 40 countries, said hundreds of Fijians would lose their jobs as a result of their decision to leave the country.