PepsiCo, Coca-Cola Face Ban in Second Indian State on Water

  • Retailers body in Kerala to ban sale of sodas from March 14
  • Another southern state, Tamil Nadu, stopped sales last week

Retailers in India’s drought-hit southern state of Kerala plan to join peers in neighboring Tamil Nadu in a boycott of beverages made by PepsiCo Inc. and Coca-Cola Co., alleging that the multinational soda makers are depleting ground water.

“Instead of foreign sodas, we will promote local beverages,” T. Naseeruddin, president, Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi, a trade body that claims membership of more than 700,000 retailers in Kerala, said in a phone interview. “We will announce the ban on March 14.”

The looming threat of a boycott in Kerala comes a week after numerous retailers in Tamil Nadu stopped selling sodas made by PepsiCo and Coca Cola as the state’s population battles water scarcity. Of the 6,607 areas assessed in India to check groundwater developments, 1,071 areas were categorized as “over-exploited” including parts of the two southern states, according to federal government data released on Dec. 1.

New Delhi-based spokesmen for PepsiCo and Coca-Cola didn’t immediately respond to calls to their mobile phones seeking comment on the matter.

The government of Kerala plans to further restrict or, if possible, stop PepsiCo’s use of groundwater at a plant in Palakkad, Mathew T. Thomas, water resources minister for the state said in an interview. Kerala is facing severe water shortage, the state’s government said in a statement posted on its website last month.

Referring to the ongoing issues in Tamil Nadu, lobby group Indian Beverage Association had said last week that it is “deeply disappointed” by the call to boycott products of multinational beverage makers, saying it goes against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to companies to “Make in India.” Arvind Varma, secretary general of the association, said he wasn’t aware of the developments in Kerala and has no comment to offer at this point.

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