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Government considers sugar tax for South Africa and more

04 April 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Breaking News
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Author:  Breaking News

The Department of Health (DoH) is considering introducing a sugar tax to encourage South Africans to.

Analysts say, while it is important for governments to encourage people to take responsibility for their own health and make changes to their diet and lifestyle, regulators should consider controlling alcohol and sugar consumption in the same way as tobacco products.

South Africa already has strong anti-tobacco legislation and it has recently introduced measures to limit the amount of salt in processed food. It is also considering a ban on alcohol advertising, with research into the economic effects of such a ban, currently under way.

"There is no final decision on a sugar tax as yet, but it is an option that is being considered and we are assessing all relevant factors around this,” says Freeman.

The Global Cancer Report 2014 adds that the global cancer number rose to 14-million new cases a year in 2012, a figure, which is set to rise to 22-million by 2022.

"This report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem,” says report co-editor Christopher Wild, who is also a director at the International Agency for Research on Cancer. He adds that deeper commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed.

The report says there were many causes of cancer, including viruses, pesticides and radiation exposure. It pointed out that excess body fat increased the risk of cancer of the oesophagus, colon, pancreas, endometrium, kidney, and breast cancer in post-menopausal women. "Among the dietary factors related to excess body weight, reduction of consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) should be a high priority.”

Further, analysts say evidence exists showing that sugar plays a role in obesity, which raises the risk of diabetes, hypertension and some cancers.

University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health director Karen Hofman said it was not clear if a tax on SSB would be feasible, but even if it were, it should not be seen as a silver bullet. "Any regulatory effort will only ever be part of the solution. People should be free to eat and drink what they like, but they need to have a full understanding of what they are consuming,” says Hofman.

She adds that she is unaware of a specific tax on sugar anywhere in the world. "We do know that taxes have been successfully intro- duced on SSB in several countries including France and Mexico,” says Hofman.

In countries such as these, the SSB have not been in place for long enough to know about the impact that they have. "However, initial research shows that taxes can lead to decreased consumption of SSB,” says Hofman.

However, medical company Discovery Vitality institute head Derek Yach has publically cautioned against placing too much emphasis on the link between sugar consumption and preventable cancers.

"A focus on taxes on sugar to reduce cancer is a misplaced policy, which will have little impact on cancer incidences and distract people from the major diet issues – reduce overall weight and increase healthy food intake,” says Yach.

Tobacco should remain the focus of cancer prevention efforts, he said. "Tobacco remains by far the most powerful single determinant of cancer, accounting for 90% of the lung cancer cases and about a third of all cancer deaths.”


Syngenta South Africa commercial unit head Antonie Delport says that owing to the hilly topography of the land used in South Africa for sugar cane, which is planted on slopes, the Plene technology is not yet available in the country. "We are developing and enhancing the technology in Brazil before we expect to expand and experiment in other countries with different topographies,” he says.

Delport highlights that Syngenta sees sugar as one of the largest crop industries in the world, and that the company is planning to innovate its technology to adapt to the sugar industry. "Sugar cane is an important global crop, and the industry will continue to grow in Africa,” says Delport.


With government having set October 2015 for the introduction of mandatory blending of bio-fuels into existing fossil fuels, the country’s sugar industry is interested in seeing where it can play a role. 

SA Sugar Association (SASA) executive director Trix Trikam said that approximately 40 000ha of currently fallow and greenfields sugarcane land would be required to assist government in meeting its minimum target of 2% bio-ethanol blending into petrol.

"Government is currently investigating potential subsidies for sugarcane and sorghum to be used for bio-ethanol production,” said Trikam. "It will be up to potential bio-ethanol producers, like the sugar milling companies, to decide if these subsidies are enough to justify investing in the infrastructure required for bio-ethanol production.”

The SA sugar industry believes that bio-ethanol from sugarcane could provide a significant profitability boost to an industry that has been struggling in recent years against low world sugar prices and large imports of cheap sugar.

Dr Marilyn Govender, SASA’s natural resource manager, said that about 12t of sugarcane was required to produce about 1m³ of bio-ethanol. She added that diverting part of SA’s sugarcane crop into bio-ethanol production would not compromise the country’s food security. Numerous new jobs would also be created within the sugarcane-to-bio-ethanol value chain.

"The SA sugar industry has made regulatory submissions to the department of energy, but the contents of these submissions have not been made public yet,” said Govender.

Thandeka Ellenson, SASA’s land reform support manager, pointed out that the currently largely under-utilised arable lands in communal areas in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga provided great potential for meeting the country’s food security and renewable energy needs.

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