SA Beverage Association set to dispute proposed sugar tax

The organization says the tax could have a dire effect on small business.

Picture: Free Images

JOHANNESBURG - The Beverage Association of South Africa says a move by government to curb obesity through a new sugar tax is 'disappointing' and will most likely fail.

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that treasury would implement a sugar tax on sweetened drinks from April 2017.

The association says there is mounting evidence that taxing what it insists is only one part of the consumers daily diet, will not result in any significant decrease in the overall consumption of sugar as sweetened beverages represent less than 10 percent of daily caloric intake.

Spokesperson Mapule Ncanywa says, "People will just simply have to pay more for soft drinks and unfortunately with the current economic situation in the country it just means less money for anybody to spend on anything. I mean if you implement sugar tax, there is sugar in most foods. You start with soft drinks, what will be next and when will it stop?"

She says the tax is potentially damaging to the poor.

"These kinds of taxes obviously have got a really regressive behaviour towards people in the lower economic strata. We know for a fact that for small businesses that are trying to make it in the economy in Mexico have had to close down their businesses; some 30,000 number that as quoted in their impact study. We obviously cannot afford to have such in South Africa as we are trying to create jobs."

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Ncanywa says they have engaged with the department of health and 40 industry players across all food and beverages through a Healthy foods Option Forum and have agreed on alternative steps to promote low and no-calorie choices in soft drinks.

This includes a zero-based approach to marketing to children; and conducting a national caloric intake study that will inform effective initiatives to reduce excessive sugar consumption.

"If the Treasury and Ministry of Health is serious about real change we call upon them and the entire food industry to join us in developing effective policies. To do otherwise risks a failed attempt to demonize one sector of foods stuffs in a misguided effort with predictably negligible results."

The association plans to meet with the national treasury soon.