The idea of a sugar tax is being mooted once again but Canegrowers is adamant if it ever becomes a reality it will have dire consequences for the Bundaberg economy.
The Australian Medical Association is calling on the Federal Government to implement a tax on sugary drinks and ban junk food ads in a bid to curb the country’s growing obesity problem.
Bundaberg’s rich economy is built on the backbone of the region’s sugar cane.
Last year alone, 390,184 tonnes of sugar was exported from the Port of Bundaberg.
Canegrowers chief executive Dan Galligan said the organisation was opposed to the introduction of a sugar tax.
“We see the sugar tax proposals as a threat that could cascade back to hurt growers and processors in regions such as Bundaberg where sugar is a major contributor to the regional economy.” Mr Galligan said.
“We are concerned a tax would cause enormous damage to our industry reputation and community perceptions about our natural, local product while not solving what is a very real and complex set of health issues.”
Mr Galligan said Canegrowers supported empowering people with information to make healthy food choices across all food categories and was a strong supporter of the work done by governments in Australia to provide information about a balanced diet and exercise regime.
“We acknowledge that Australia is facing a significant challenge in tackling increasing rates of obesity within the community but demonising one ingredient by singling it out as the root of all dietary issues is a simplistic and therefore dangerous response to this modern health problem,” Mr Galligan said.
“The increase in obesity can be attributed to our modern lifestyle of eating more and moving less – not a single ingredient such as sugar.”
Cancer Council Queensland chief executive Chris McMillan disagreed and said the state’s obesity epidemic was not slowing down and a 20-per cent tax on sugary drinks was a must.
“The average Australian who drinks a 375ml can of sugary drink a day will consume around 14.6kg of sugar a year, or a 600ml bottle a day would equate to 23.3kg of sugar a year,” she said.
“A tax on sugary drinks would encourage people to select cheaper and healthier options rather than consuming unhealthy beverages.
“We urge all levels of government to act now and introduce a tax on all sugary beverages, with taxes used to educate the community about healthy food and drink choices as part of a comprehensive approach to decreasing overweight and obesity.”