Spanish trade associations and companies have united in a bid to reverse a new sugar tax on soft drinks introduced in the Catalonia region.
A dozen entities have urged to the Spanish government to go to the constitutional court and repeal the tax, as they claim it infringes on the country’s market unity law, which aims to reduce barriers to trade across Spain’s regions.
The tax was introduced in May and hit a range of products including energy drinks, flavoured water, milkshakes and juice made from concentrate.
The tax rate depends on the amount of sugar content in the beverage: drinks that have between 5g and 8g of sugar per 100ml have risen by €0.08 per litre; those with over 8g per 100ml have gone up by €0.12.
The Catalan regional government introduced the measure in a bid to improve public health by reducing sugar consumption on the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The aim is to change the habits of not just consumers but also producers.
Catalan minister for agriculture Meritxell Serret yesterday defended the need for the tax and said she will ‘seek a better dialogue with the business sector’ to show that the tax ‘is not against its interests’.
While the levy could raise as much as €41 million a year, companies in the soft drinks sector have argued that the measure will hit the region’s poorest families hardest and that efforts have already been made to reduce the amount of sugar in drinks.
The Soft Drinks Association in Spain (Anfabra) said the sector feels discriminated against as other products contain added sugars yet are not affected by the tax. A spokesperson from the organisation said the tax is ‘regressive, discriminatory and ineffective in changing lifestyle habits’.
Anfabra, which represents companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, now leads the push to repeal the tax, supported by many of Spain’s major supermarkets.
The report presented to the national government claims the tax affects the free movement of goods and services and that distribution companies could relocate to avoid paying.
Spain’s central government last year tried to introduce a similar tax last year which was quickly scrapped.
In February, the now CEO of Coca-Cola James Quincey said that taxes on sugary drinks ‘haven’t really made a difference to the industry’, referring to measures introduced by countries like France and Mexico.
The UK government announced plans last year to introduce a levy on sugary drinks which it predicted would raise around £520 million. Chancellor Phillip Hammond revealed in March that the measure would in fact bring in only £380 million for the treasury as ‘producers are already reformulating sugar out of their drinks’.
Last year, the WHO urged governments around the world to introduce a tax on sugary drinks, claiming that a 20% hike would reduce obesity and diabetes by a similar amount.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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