Proposed sugar tax under the spotlight in Parliament

Parliament's committees on finance and health are expected to hear from at least 15 representatives on the pros and cons of introducing a sugar tax.

FILE: Sugar cubes. Picture: Free Images

CAPE TOWN - Parliament will on Tuesday start assessing the merits of introducing a so-called sugar tax on sweetened beverages.

Public hearings are being held to allow a wide range of organisations to present their arguments for and against the proposal made by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan during his budget speech last year.

The sugar industry is opposing the idea, but the Health Department says it is a must to curb growing obesity and a range of related illnesses.

Parliament's committees on finance and health are expected to hear from at least 15 representatives from industry, civil society and academia on the pros and cons of introducing a sugar tax.

They represent less than half the number of requests received by the committee for oral submissions.

Finance chairperson Yunus Carrim says that no decisions will be taken just yet and that more hearings will have to be scheduled.

The South African Sugar Association is among those expected to address the committees. It says a sugar tax will bring the industry to its knees.

The association will be arguing against organisations like the Health Living Alliance, who say a tax is necessary to prevent non-communicable diseases.

Gordhan had proposed introducing the tax by 1 April, but parliamentary committees say some stakeholders might want to defer their representations until he provides more detail on exactly what is being proposed.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)