Health campaigners have suggested that scrapping the EU’s sugar quota regime could undermine the tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.
Defra and the EU’s agriculture ministers are “gung-ho” for the new sugar regime, which will see quotas scrapped, said Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum. “We are absolutely convinced this will have an impact on human health,” he added.
Forecasts published this week by experts at by Stratégie Grains in France showed that production of sugar could climb by 31% between 2016 and 2021 – which is “good news” for sugar users. Fry warned that this could soften the impact of the sugar tax. “It’s clear the quotas will result in increased production just at the time when we are trying to reduce consumption,” he explained.
Market analysts argued that an increase in production would not necessarily translate into lower prices. The concerns raised by health campaigners are “legitimate but somewhat exaggerated”, Stratégie Grains told Foodnavigator.com.
Dominic Watkins, a partner at law firm DWF, said if sugar prices fell as a result then it could “potentially reduce the impact of the tax as the tax falls on the manufacturer so this cost base reduction could help reduce the need for as great a price increase from the tax. Whether this occurs remains to be seen as – like other taxed products – manufacturers could just choose to pass the tax on in the cost price to retailers.”
In 2015, researchers at the University of Cambridge argued that “the liberalisation of the sugar market in the EU may increase consumption, particularly among the lowest socioeconomic groups, and damage public health across Europe and beyond”. The authors said the cheaper cost of sugar will make it even more profitable to add it to processed foods to increase palatability and bulking.