The Sugar Tax Debate: Will it really help South Africans?

By Drum Digital
31 January 2017

Parliament is currently holding its first public hearing on the introduction of a sugar tax in South Africa.

South Africans first became aware of the tax when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that a sugar tax would be levied with effect from 1 April 2017 in the 2016 budget speach.

The call for Government to put a tax on sweetened sugar beverages (SSBs) is aimed at reducing the prevalence of obesity in the country by 10 % by 2020, by using what the Department of Health (DOH) considers to be a cost-effective strategy to address diet-related disease.

Research by the University of Witwatersrand found that a suggested 20 % tax on SSBs could possibly reduce obesity in 220 000 adults.

Globally, countries such as Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Mauritius and Norway have levied taxes on SSBs, while other countries such the United Kingdom, Thailand and Australia have recently announced their intention to introduce such taxes.

However, according to online source,, Finland will be scrapping its sugar tax from 2017 because the European Commission says that it unfairly discriminates against foreign companies, which must also pay import taxes on top of the sugar tax. In the UK, The British Soft Drinks Association threatened to take the UK to the European courts – claiming it’s unfair competition, particularly against those manufacturers of biscuits, cakes, chocolate and milk-based drinks who will not be impacted by the sugar tax. Here’s what South Africans think of the sugar tax

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