Beverage Association of South Africa takes its sugar tax opposition to parliament
South African health leaders need to research other ways of reducing the country’s obesity problem before introducing a planned 20 per cent sugar tax, says The Beverage Association of South Africa (BevSA).
BevSA presented its position at a joint sitting in Parliament of the Standing Committee on Finance and the Portfolio Committee on Health last week. It warned that the tax – planned for introduction in April – will damage economic growth, with a knock on loss to employment, yet deliver limited health benefits.
It questioned whether tax was the most effective way to tackle South Africa’s growing obesity problem.
It proposed regulating sugar reduction instead of introducing a sugar tax and said the beverage industry would commit to achieving double the calorie reduction envisaged by a tax.
BevSA also wants to see more in-depth local research before the tax was implemented, including a total dietary intake study to determine the drivers of South Africa’s rising obesity alongside a detailed socio-economic impact assessment on the effects of a tax.
BevSA proposed more effective ways to address the challenge than a tax on soft drinks including portion control and wider avaiability of low-calorie alternatives.
It warned that tens of thousands of jobs could be on the line if the tax goes ahead and numerous capital investment projects in various sectors of the economy would be put on hold.
The new tax is weighted and the average weighted rate of the tax would be around 25 per cent, says BevSA but in some categories, such as cordials, it could be 50 per cent.
The hearings began on Tuesday but at the beginning of the week the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) executive board said it would not to endorse recommendations to impose a soft drinks tax on member states.
In a statement, BevSA executive director, Mapule Ncanywa, welcomed the views of those Member States, including Canada, Italy, US and New Zealand who raised concerns and opposition over a national soft drinks tax.