South African Canegrowers (SA Canegrowers) has welcomed government’s decision to maintain the health promotion levy, or 'sugar tax', at its current rate.
The industry association says that, although it had called for a reduction in the sugar tax, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s 2021 Budget adds no additional obstacles to the “sticky path ahead” for the industry’s recovery and the one-million livelihoods that depend on the industry.
“What is critical now is that the other commitments made in the Sugar Industry Masterplan are implemented as soon as possible. SA Canegrowers has consistently called for the completion of a socioeconomic-impact assessment study on the impact of the sugar tax.
“This will enable government and industry to analyse the need and efficacy of any tax or supposed health promotion levy from a factual basis,” the association states.
SA Canegrowers adds that a draft report has been commissioned and it is essential that this report be finalised without further delay.
A survey conducted in the first year of the sugar tax found that the sugar industry had lost in excess of 9 000 jobs in the cane growing sector alone.
A comprehensive report should also include the impact on other affected industries, including the sugar-sweetened beverage industry, which have suffered similar devastating job losses.
“Our collective priority right now must be the preservation of the 65 000 direct jobs that the local sugar industry supports, and the survival and growth of the 21 581 small-scale growers in the industry who create economic opportunities in deep rural areas where they are most needed,” SA Canegrowers points out.
During his State of the Nation Address earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa encouraged South Africans to buy locally produced sugar.
This call has come at a critical time for the industry and economic recovery, and SA Canegrowers has put all efforts towards its Home Sweet Home campaign to make it easy for consumers to buy local and support local growers.
Mboweni’s reprieve will boost these efforts, it states.
SA Canegrowers says it will continue working with all government and industry stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the Sugar Masterplan.