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Bottled water makers cry foul over prices

K.A. Martin
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Supplyco’s Sabari brand to hit market soon

Bottled water is being sold for prices ranging between Rs. 15 and 20, while the Kerala Bottled Water Manufacturers’ Association has endorsed only a price of Rs. 15 per litre as MRP.
Bottled water is being sold for prices ranging between Rs. 15 and 20, while the Kerala Bottled Water Manufacturers’ Association has endorsed only a price of Rs. 15 per litre as MRP.

: A scorching summer like the one beating down on Kerala now may be the best of times for sellers of bottled water. But the formally organised players among them are crying foul over customers being fleeced by unscrupulous elements in the business.

Kerala Bottled Water Manufacturers’ Association president M. E. Mohammed alleged that with the business picking up momentum this summer, price variations had come into sharp focus. According to him, bottled water is being sold for prices ranging between Rs. 15 and 20, while the association had endorsed only a price of Rs. 15 per litre as MRP.

However, a game-changer has appeared on the horizon with Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) planning to launch its brand of bottled water next month. The water, in packs of one litre, will come under the brand name Sabari and is expected to be priced between Rs. 12 and 13.

The Sabari brand will be launched across the State where some of the multi-national brands dominate. Supplyco has already received licence, and registration formalities are complete.

Meanwhile, the only way to stop customers from being fleeced is to create awareness. “If the customer insists that they will not pay more, this problem can be addressed,” says Mr. Mohammed.

Even a few of the members of the association had resorted to hiking the price of bottled drinking water, he adds. This, he says, was the result of some of the retailers insisting on higher MRP than the price fixed by the association.

The association had submitted memoranda before the Chief Minister and Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, but to no avail, he says.

The number of licensed bottled water makers in the State has gone up to 104 so far. Mr. Mohammed alleges that there are an equal number of players operating without licence. Most of these players are in the bulk water sales rather than in the retail business of selling one-litre bottles.

However, this is a claim contested by the Food Safety Authority officials, who say that it is difficult to operate without licence because bottled water sales are closely monitored. Food Safety Authority had continuously checked the quality of water arriving in markets across the State during the just-concluded Mandalam season.

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