The Beverage Association of South Africa (BevSA) on Tuesday called on Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to address outstanding issues regarding sugar-sweetened beverages tax.
This comes as Motsoaledi was due to make a speech on Tuesday night to open the World Public Health Nutrition Association’s World Nutrition Congress in Cape Town.
There has been much debate recently since National Treasury published a policy paper last month on a proposed 20 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, to take effect April 2017, that would generate almost R11-billion revenue in a bid to curb non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
BevSA has argued that the proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages had the potential to reduce the industry’s contribution to GDP by R14-billion and could trigger 62 000 to 72 000 job losses, doing more harm than good.
In a statement late on Tuesday, BevSA reiterated its commitment to be part of the solution to obesity.
“We would like to request the minister of health to guide the participants of the World Nutrition Congress to consider the following key areas of concern during this congress,” BevSA said.
BevSA also questioned the absence of conclusive evidence to suggest that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages alone would have a meaningful and long-term impact on obesity in South Africa.
On Monday, Treasury confirmed that it would hold a stakeholder workshop in November to discuss the proposed tax on sugar sweetened beverages.
BevSA said since Treasury has not yet conducted a socio-economic impact assessment study to weigh up the cost of the tax to the South African economy, the announcement of an sugar-sweetened beverages tax in advance of the outcomes of the study was premature.
“There is a gap in comprehensive dietary and consumption data for the South African population on which to base any intervention decision – a Total Dietary Study is required to address this gap,” BevSA said.
“There is no commitment from Treasury that revenue from this tax will go towards public health interventions – why is that so?
Above all, why has there been no consideration of alternatives to the tax and the government has not acknowledged significant voluntary industry initiatives that are already underway.”
BevSA has proposed a joint public-private partnership between industry, government and the scientific community to reduce obesity and other non-communicable diseases among South Africans.