Sugar Crisis: 12-month delay in the increase of the sugar tax will help to protect vital rural livelihoods
SA Canegrowers welcomes the announcement by Minister Enoch Godongwana of a 12-month delay in the implementation of the planned increase of the Health Promotion Levy (HPL or sugar tax).
The increase of the sugar tax from 2.21 to 2.31 cents per gram of sugar had been announced in the Minister’s Budget Speech in February and was expected to come into effect today.
The delay is a welcome reprieve for South Africa’s growers, especially small-scale growers. In the first of year of its implementation alone, the sugar tax cost South Africa more than 16,000 jobs and R2,05 billion.
This is despite government failing to produce any evidence to date that the tax has had any impact on bringing down obesity levels in the country, since it was introduced in 2018.
Modelling commissioned by SA Canegrowers with the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) shows that maintaining the sugar tax at the current level will still cost the industry a further 15,984 seasonal and permanent jobs and will be a major contributing factor towards a decline of 46, 600 hectares of area under cane over the next ten years.
However, there would have been even further job and revenue losses if the planned increase had gone ahead today.
The increase would have exacerbated the challenges the industry already faces as a result of rising input costs including price hikes in diesel fuel, which is currently 40% above the price in March 2021 and expected to go a lot higher, and fertiliser, the cost of which has increased more than 160% when compared to last year.
However, while today’s announcement provides some short-term relief to growers, it is critical that government focuses on assessing the long-term implications of keeping the tax in place.
SA Canegrowers will therefore continue to engage government in this regard and will continue calling for further research into the impact of the tax on obesity levels as well as on jobs and revenue from 2018 to date.
One million livelihoods
SA Canegrowers remains committed to the protection of the one million livelihoods that the sugar industry supports and to the success of the Sugar Cane Value Chain Masterplan.
We believe the only way to achieve this is to scrap the sugar tax entirely and to implement a holistic approach to health that takes into account all of the factors that contribute to obesity in South Africa.