Concerns have been raised that the proposed sugar tax, which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan confirmed on Wednesday would be implemented later in 2017, might be too low to deter consumers, after government confirmed changes to its initial proposal.
In his Budget Speech, Gordhan confirmed that the design of the tax had been revised, and that the proposed tax rate will now be 2.1c/gram for sugar content in excess of 4g/100ml and also included pure fruit juice in the tax.
In the initial proposal, according to an earlier Health24 report, the tax was going to be levied on all sugar in drinks without any exemption.
'It might not be enough'
The proposed tax now is estimated to be around 11% rather than the initial 20% proposed, a move which an industry body says may not be the deterrent the tax was hoped to be.
The Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) said in a statement that it was disappointed that the proposed tax was “reduced significantly and it might not be sufficiently high to deter consumption of these drinks.”
Fruit juices not exempted
“While HEALA welcomes the fact that the tax will now cover all sugary drinks including 100% fruit juice, it is disappointed that fruit concentrates will only pay 50% of the tax.”
(Update: Deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas has since said that 100% fruit juice will not be taxed at this stage despite the Budget Review saying "intrinsic sugar" will be taxed. "We are only targeting soft drinks at this stage," Jonas said, speaking on the sidelines of the Budget Breakfast at Kelvin Grove in Cape Town.)
HEALA stressed that tackling obesity should be a “national priority”, with South Africa having the highest obesity rates in Africa.
“While there is no silver bullet that will slim down the nation, cutting sugar consumption is a non-negotiable public health measure. Sugary drinks are a major contributor to excessive sugar intake.”, said HEALA coordinator, Tracey Malawana.