A handful of Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) members descended on the national finance department in Pretoria on Monday to demand that plans to introduce a sugar tax be scrapped.

In July‚ the department published a policy paper on the proposed taxation of sugar sweetened beverages.

In an attempt to reduce the consumption of sweet drinks‚ which it argues cause obesity and other health problems in the population‚ the document proposed a 20% tax on the beverages.

"Literature suggests that a 20% price increase of sugar sweetened beverages may be required to have a significant impact on purchases‚ consumption‚ and ultimately on obesity and population health‚" the document said.

But the Fawu marchers maintain a sugar tax will cause a "jobs bloodbath" in the sugar value-chain industries. They said between 5‚000 and 6‚000 jobs would be lost.

Statistics SA announced last week that the unemployment rate in the country is now above 27%.

"One job loss is one too many in this country…it’s unacceptable that we create more unemployment‚" Katishi Masemola‚ Fawu’s general secretary‚ said.

The department’s own policy document recognised job losses as one of the risks

"Some of the challenges that have faced the imposition of a tax on sugar products include administrative considerations‚ job losses‚ product substitution by consumers and tax evasion because of classification anomalies‚" it said.

Fawu said it supports efforts to ensure South Africans eat healthy food‚ but not a sugar tax. "We support a healthy nation‚ not job losses‚" marchers said on placards.

In a memorandum of demands‚ the union said it wanted a national stakeholder summit to discuss sugar and fat‚ health and jobs.

TMG Digital/Sowetan

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