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Warning on consequences of sugar tax

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Sweet Saak Bakery owner Kamilah Cannonier has called on Government to reconsider its proposed sugar tax (File photograph)

A tax on high-sugar sweet products will have a sour effect on small businesses, the owner of a bakery in St George’s warned yesterday.

Kamilah Cannonier, of Sweet Saak Bakery, said the Government should reconsider the tax and predicted it would drive shoppers to buy “even worse food alternatives” than home-made, baked goods.

Ms Cannonier was speaking after the Government’s consultation on the proposed increased taxes for candy, soda and other “non-nutritive, luxury items” ended yesterday.

The professional baker said: “It will become an impediment to the development of small business at a time when our economy desperately needs job creators.

“It will incentivise consumers to look to cheaper, imported goods which contain more additives, dyes, colouring and preservatives and it will result in a business like ours having to make difficult decisions in order to continue to operate.

The health ministry launched an eight-week consultation in January on the proposed sugar tax designed to help people to be healthier and discourage importers from bringing in high-sugar products.

Ms Cannonier said: “The implementation of this sugar tax will affect my business but my overall objection to this tax stems from the absurd rationale of financial penalties levied on corporations to curb the dietary decisions of abusive individuals.”

She added there was no correlation from any country that similar taxes had improved community health, reduced healthcare costs or improved public education on diet choices.

Ms Cannonier said: “The history of financially penalising, or rewarding, one sector in the hope of obtaining an obscure desired enhancement of another is an archaic approach to governance.”

She explained that sugar was already the bakery’s most expensive ingredient “on a per unit basis” and that a tax on sugar would increase their raw ingredient costs.

Ms Cannonier said this could be passed onto the consumer but would “certainly result in the need to consider the longevity of this local productive small business”.

She added: “An increase to the costs of our business will result in the business having to make difficult decisions around expenditure, employment and growth.”

Ms Cannonier said the proposed tax ignored pre-mixes and other store-bought processed baked goods that also contain sugar and less healthy sugar alternatives such as high- fructose corn syrup.

She added that the Government’s plan would make baked goods “much more expensive” than store-bought goods, which would drive people “towards even worse food alternatives than home-made baked goods”.

Ms Cannonier also disagreed that the tax would not affect low-income families, but encourage wholesalers to stock healthier options.

She said: “It is historically proven that any inflated taxation, regardless of its harmless intention, will always adversely affect low-income families.” Ms Cannonier added that a sugar tax would affect all food makers because sugar was already an expensive ingredient.

She said: “This directly affects not only business overhead, but also low-income families who support local businesses.”

A health ministry spokeswoman said: “The ministry has invited comment from stakeholders, so we welcome all views and perspectives on this important issue.

“The consultation document considers the impact on low-income persons and concludes that, in fact, low-income persons are more adversely affected by the consequences of obesity and chronic disease, so this has to be weighed against the impact of any potential tax.”

She added that all views would be considered before the Government moves ahead with firm proposals on the tax.


Sweet Saak Bakery owner Kamilah Cannonier has called on Government to reconsider its proposed sugar tax (File photograph)