No more sweet talking

The beverage industry has launched a full-scale assault on the planned sugar tax and yesterday gathered with township residents in Alexandra to detail the calamity they claim the tax will cause to the poor.

The meeting of the township residents to speak on behalf of lower- income groups was coordinated with the help of the beverage industry’s PR team and Coca-Cola, who admitted to “leading” the meeting.

The government's proposed sugar tax which would increase the price of cooldrinks, has been met with opposition from the beverage industry, which yesterday met with Alexandra residents to oppose the plan.
The government’s proposed sugar tax which would increase the price of cooldrinks, has been met with opposition from the beverage industry, which yesterday met with Alexandra residents to oppose the plan.

Vincent Sithole from SA National Civic Organisation said his spaza shop would be hard hit by a roughly 20% increase in sweetened cooldrink prices – saying customers will stop buying sodas.

“I know my people. I know what they want.”

There was some confusion about the tax with the spokeswoman of Alexandra Property Owners Rights Organisation, Veronica Ngomezulu Lebeone saying she believed sugar was being taxed.

“Sugar prices are going up … I have got a lot of grandchildren. We use sugar every day.”

The proposed tax is linked to the amount of sugar in beverages and would see a price hike in fizzy drinks, excluding fruit juice, by about
20%-25%.

Lebeone also said she did not see the value of reducing sugar intake to improve health. “I am 69. I have sugar every day. I am fit as a fiddle.”

Another member of the organisation, Thabo Mokhine, said politicians only met with residents during elec tion time and did not bother to go door to door when they planned changes to the laws.

“Government should have consulted the end users – the people who drink beverages.

“The reputation of our government in undermining the masses has gone too far.”

Mokhine said he would be submitting a comment to Treasury about the lack of consultation and the tax.

The comment period closes today.

A beverages industry study says 60000 jobs could be lost despite the fact it directly employs only about 14600 people.

In some press releases Coca-Cola has revised its estimate to 70000 jobs.

The Oxford Economics study to back up this data is still being finalised and is not yet public.

“Oxford Economics calculates a weighted average price increase for drinks of 25.1% that would result in a 36.6% drop in sales in volumes of beverages,” said FTI Consulting, which represents the beverage industry.

These job loss figures were speculative and any study commissioned by industry should be considered with caution, said a researcher at Wits unit Priceless, Aviva Tugendhaft, whose work was used to show a sugar tax would reduce obesity in about 220000 individuals.

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