Bottled drinking water has come under a price cap in Kerala, with the State making it an essential commodity and fixing a ceiling of ₹13 per litre. The current retail price is ₹20.
The State government on Wednesday announced the price reduction after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan signed the Food Department proposal.
Including bottled water in the list of essential commodities enables price control. Food Minister P. Thilothaman told The Hindu that the notification on the new price would be issued soon. He said the government had also decided to make BIS standards mandatory for all brands of bottled water. This would force unauthorised manufacturers to shut shop.
In 2018, the government convened a meeting of bottled water manufacturers at which it was decided to bring down the price to ₹12. But the decision was not implemented in the face of opposition from traders and some manufacturers.
The Minister said some companies had insisted on a minimum price of ₹15. “We understood that manufacturers could afford to sell bottled water at much less. Traders were also fleecing buyers, extracting a huge margin. The government cannot close its eyes to such exploitation,” he said.
The Kerala Bottled Water Manufacturers’ Association welcomed the decision to reduce the price. Its president, M. E. Mohamed, said the Association had taken the initiative to cut the retail price after multinational brands hiked their price to ₹20 a litre in 2012. There was, however, some opposition from industry players, over commercial concerns.
The State government sells a litre of bottled water at ₹10, through a subsidiary of the Kerala Water Authority, he said. The move by the State government would help the industry in the long run. The public felt that bottled water manufacturers were fleecing customers.
There are around 200 bottled water manufacturers in Kerala, as per a rough estimate. But the Association has less than a hundred members. Most manufacturers sell around 300 to 500 cases of bottled water a day, a case consisting of 12 one-litre bottles.