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Minister of finance, Enoch Godongwana, announced a twelve-month delay in the implementation of the planned increase of the Health Promotion Levy (HPL, or sugar tax). The planned increase of the sugar tax will be from 2,21 to 2,31 cents per gram of sugar.
The delay is a welcome reprieve for South Africa’s (SA) growers, especially small-scale growers. In the first year of its implementation alone, the sugar tax cost SA 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 conducted by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) under the commission of SA Canegrowers 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 600ha 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.
The increase would have exacerbated the challenges the industry already faces because 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% compared to last year.
However, while today’s announcement provides some short-term relief to growers, it is critical that government focusses 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.
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 considers all the factors that contribute to obesity in SA. – Thomas Funke, SA Canegrowers