Kerala Takes the Fizz out of Coke & Pepsi
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, NEW DELHI: The Kerala government on Monday clamped
a blanket ban on production, distribution and sale of all carbonated
beverages sold by Pepsi and Coca-Cola in the state. “The ban is on
with immediate effect,” chief minister VS Achuthanandan said after
a meeting of his cabinet.
Though the Rs 300-crore Kerala market accounts for only 5% of the
500-million cases of carbonated beverages sold in India, it is the
first state to ban both production and sale of colas. The industry
fears this can trigger a similar ban by other states. Delhi, Karnataka,
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have either banned sale of colas
in and near educational institutions or at government offices and
establishments. Tamil Nadu said it would ban the drinks only if the
Centre banned it.
The move is a severe setback for cola majors that are still grappling
with allegations of pesticide contents in the carbonated beverages
sold by them in India. The ban also means cancellation of licences
of Coke’s Plachimada plant and Pepsi’s plant at Kanjikode. The fate
of the stocks in the plant and in the distribution chain is unclear.
The withdrawal of licences is also likely to hit the production of
their mineral water brands - Kinley and Aquafina.
Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi did not comment on the issue but the Indian
Soft Drinks Manufacturers’ Association—of which both are members—said
its products manufactured in India met every safety standard set by
food, health and regulatory bodies in India and abroad.
The ban covers all prominent brands sold by the two companies—Pepsi,
Coca-Cola, Mirinda, Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Blue, Fanta, Limca,
Sprite, Thums Up, and 7-up.
Sale of carbonated beverages has fallen 15-60% in different parts
of the country since the pesticide controversy broke. Coca-Cola and
Pepsi account for roughly 50:50 of the Rs 6,000-crore carbonated beverages
Kerala sells 25 million (5%) of the 500-million cases sold in India.
But the state had a share of 9.5% of the domestic market before the
controversial campaign against water depletion in the village of Plachimada
brought down sales.
Asked if public health was a reigning priority and whether cigarettes
and beedis would also be banned, Achutanandan, who is also a CPI(M)
politburo member, groped for an answer. “The ban on tobacco and tobacco
products will be considered in a phased way. Today’s decision concerns
only colas,” he replied.
On Sunday, a meeting of the liaison committee of Left Democratic Front
(LDF) had unanimously decided to recommend the ban to the state government.
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