Sugar price falls as the Malaysian government weighs soft drink tax, Malaysia News

PUTRAJAYA – The ceiling price for coarse-grained sugar and fine granulated sugar will be reduced by 10 sen per kg, as the government fights a soda tax to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Announcement of the new price – raw granulated sugar with RM2.85 per kg and fine granulated sugar with RM2.95 per kg effective on 1 September – Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Affairs Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the price decrease was due to the worldwide reduction in the price of raw sugar, as well as the rising cost of living.

"This also takes into account the increase in the cost of living in Malaysia, which is caused by the increase in the cost of goods.

"Hopefully, this reduction will lead to a multiplying effect that will lower the price of food and beverages on the market," Saifuddin said at a press conference after the monthly meeting of his ministry here.

He said that neighboring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore had taken similar measures and that the sugar price in Malaysia was still one of the lowest in Southeast Asia.

But he also stressed that reduced sugar prices should not be seen as an encouragement from the government to increase sugar intake.

"In 2016, more than 3.6 million Malaysians aged 18 and older were diabetic, and this number will continue to rise if we do not take measures to control sugar consumption," he said.

In Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government was looking for a soft drink tax to encourage healthy living and reduce sugar consumption, a cause of diabetes.

Commenting on the price reduction, Prof Datuk said. Anuar Zaini Md Zain, a board member of the National Diabetes Institute, that price control on sugar has had little impact on the nation's diabetes statistics.

He felt that all foods and drinks with a high sugar content should be taxed.

"In this way, people will think twice about consuming products that can be dangerous to health," he said.

Galen Center for Health and Social Policy, chief executive officer Azrul Mohd Khalib, said that lowering the sugar price and introducing a soft drink tax would be a contradictory message to the public.

He advised the government to reconsider the fall in prices and said the sugar price should have remained as it is now, because Malaysia already has cheap sugar.

He added that a soft drink tax would induce the consumer to switch to other sugary drinks such as tarik and kopi susu.

Azul suggested applying the tax to manufacturers and not to the point of sale.

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