Water bottling companies operating in Ghana are complaining about what they describe as unfair billing from the Ghana Water Company Limited.
Refering to the new Tarrifs rolled out by the Public Utilies Regulatory Commission, sachet water producers and beverage companies must pay GHp 1,121.02 (GHC 1.12) per 1000 litres, whereas bottling companies are charged as high as GHC5.78.
In an intervew with pulse.com.gh, the companies demanded an explaination with regards to the vast disparity in the cost of water between the two water producers when they all use the water for the same commercial purposes. They are yet to receive any meaning response, they say.
Corrspondence sighted indicated that the companies have complained to the PURC and the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Ekow Spio Garbrah:
"As per the GWCL Website, they have specifically published that “Special Commercial” refers to bulk customers who use GWCL treated water as the main raw material for bottling water for resale. If that is the case then why are there separate tariffs for bottled water and sachet water; both use GWCL treated water as the main raw material for resale, even though not all companies provide further treatment though GWCL treated water is actually not safe to drink on its own. Are we promoting the consumption of sachet water over bottled water or is it because sachet water is affordable to the masses due to the low cost of packaging? What about hygiene and our environment, has that been considered?"
The companies again argue that increasing the cost of production for bottled water producers will push them out of business, increasing the supply of sachet water on the market, a situation that will not orgre well for the environment and the country's ambition to recycle plastic waste as the waste from sachet water cannot be recycled.
As things stand, the prices of bottled water will cost higher than soft drinks given that beverage companies are charged four times lower for water sourced from the Ghana Water Company.
A bottled water operator complained, "How can Bottled Water Companies survive if the cost of water is 4 times higher that of a Cola Drink? Is it that they believe that water in a bottle is considered an upper class product for the rich but a cola in a bottle is for all classes? Think about this, do we really have a PURC that works? Should all bottled water companies in Ghana shift to sachet water to bring their cost of production down by 400% as well?"
Reacting to the concerns of botlle water companies, in an interview with Pulse.com.gh, the head of communications at Ghana Water Company, Stanely Martey said the PURC will be in the best position to explain the disparity in the tariffs for industry.
He explains that bottle water companies have higher profit margins than their counterpart sachet water producers, therefore justifying the tariff disparities.
He however registered the willingness of the PURC and the Ghana Water Company to listen to any greivance s water bottling company may have, and are ready to dialogue on the right way forward.
Water bills sighted by Pulse.com.gh show the bills of some water companies have increased from GHC90,000 a month to GHC400,000. This they say is fast crippling their business.
When pulse.com.gh contacted the PURC on the matter, Nana Yaa Jantuah, PRO of the commission said
" We have a complaints process, so any company that feels aggrieved in any way can complain.