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Aguni Village, company in salty row over factory

Date Posted: 2002-07-04

Aguni salt, extracted from ocean water in the village of Aguni, has proven to be very popular even on national level. But the success is causing a row between the company that extracts and markets the salt and Aguni Village that helped to finance the facility. At the root of the row is Aguni Village officials desire to reorganize the salt producer into a third sector company. The company management opposes the plan.

Salt production in Aguni started in 1995 with the village agreeing to subsidy the construction of the facility. The venture proved to be so successful that two years later the company constructed new office building and expanded its production facilities. The money came again from the village coffers with the prefecture pitching in its share. Altogether the government money totaled ¥90 million.

The village now suggests turning the company into a third sector venture, thus giving the village a piece of action. This naturally rubs the company owner and president wrong way. “When we applied for the funds, it was a subsidy, not a loan,” Okinawa Kaien Kenkyujo President Koshin Kowatari says. “There was no discussion about creating a third sector company. The mayor only said that if our salt becomes popular it would help to promote the village. If they want their money back, they should have said so from the beginning,” Kowatari states.

Aguni Mayor Masao Shinzato disagrees. “I have talked him many times about creating a third sector company. If he does not agree, he should start paying rent for his factory, as it was all built with money from the village and the prefecture,” Shizato insists.

Another sore point between the salt maker and Aguni Village is the plan to create a large pasture near the salt factory for a herd of cows raised by the village. “If the manure and waste from the cows flows into the ocean, we cannot take the salt any more,” Kowatari claims. He says that prefecture officials are taking this problem seriously and are sending an inspection team to assess the problem.

Shinzato is not about to give in. “This project has been democratically decided and the time to express opinions about it has expired. A private person should not second guess village’s plans.”

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