THE TT Manufacturers Association (TTMA) is open to discussions with the Health Ministry about a sugar tax.
At a public hearing of Parliament’s Social Services and Public Administration Joint Select Committee on Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said the ministry was considering this tax as one method to combat childhood obesity.
TTMA president Christopher Alcazar on Thursday said the association remained very open to discussing this issue with the Health Ministry. Saying the issue is not a new one, Alcazar said manufacturers had been taking steps to reduce the amount of sugar in the beverages they produced. He said that was a very expensive process, involving marketing, re-branding, research and development. Alcazar said the objective should be to find the right balance in the issue.
The food and beverage sector, Alcazar continued, is an important component in the non-energy sector of the economy. He identified SM Jaleel, Solo and Coca-Cola as some of the sector’s major players.
“We must be very careful not to shoot ourselves in the foot,” Alcazar said.
He added there were several ways to combat obesity besides reducing sugar content in drinks. These include proper balance of diet and exercise. Alcazar said there was the possibility the discussion could include the question of imposing taxes on other other food items which contribute to obesity.
While manufacturers had been doing their part, Alcazar said there needed to be more feedback from the ministry.
A senior Health Ministry official said the issue of the sugar tax remained under consideration.
When contacted, officials at SM Jaleel said they were unable to comment on the issue at that time.