Moves Under Way to Tackle SA Sugar Industry 'Crisis'
The South African Cane Growers' Association has welcomed the news that Parliament recently requested Minister of Trade and Industry Dr Rob Davies to consult with the ministers of finance and health about the socio-economic impact of the Health Promotion Levy, or sugar tax, implemented in 2018.
Deputy chairperson Rex Talmage said the association had been "encouraged" by the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry's recent acknowledgement of "the scale of the crisis in the sugar industry".
In recent years, the sugar value chain had come under financial pressure due to "unfair competition" from sugar imported at below the cost of local sugar production, widespread drought conditions, and the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, he said. This situation had been exacerbated by the recent announcement of a 5,2% increase in the sugar tax.
"What we do know is that since the implementation of the sugar tax in April 2018, the industry has lost R1,3 billion in revenue in
only one season. We calculate that the sugar tax has put up to 10 000 jobs in the cane-growing sector at risk, with no discernible benefits to public health," Talmage said.
Joanmariae Fubbs, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, disputed criticism that she appeared not to care about the fate of the sugar industry. She said that she supported the National Economic Development and Labour Council's recommendations aimed at mitigating the challenges faced by the sector.
"We're taking [strong] action on [the] dumping [of sugar]. [It] is not right. I also believe that the economic impact of the sugar tax must be considered, but at the same time we need to better regulate the high sugar content of our beverages. It's all very complex and I can't just put a Band-Aid on it. But where we are mandated to do so, we are dealing with issues as soon as we receive the necessary information," Fubbs said.