CANE COMMENT: Manager of Proserpine Canegrowers Mike Porter.
CANE COMMENT: Manager of Proserpine Canegrowers Mike Porter. Peter Carruthers

New sugar tax won't fix obesity

PROSERPINE'S cane growers are not on board with a proposed 20% tax on sugary drinks as they say the obesity epidemic doesn't lie with sugar alone.

The proposal by Australia's leading health organisations comes as part of a new strategy to tackle obesity, which is now said to pose a greater risk to the nation than smoking.

A coalition of 34 high-profile groups want the federal government to establish obesity prevention as a national priority as obesity rates rise to around 63% of Australian adults and 27% of children obese or overweight.

An action plan, 'Tipping the Scales', launched on Tuesday renewed calls for a tax on sugary drinks, with a suggested levy of 20% to apply to all non-alcohol drinks with added sugar.

This included soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and cordials but excluded 100% fruit juices and milks.

Applying a tax on sugary drinks would follow in the footsteps of Britain, Ireland, Belgium, France, Fiji, Mexico, South Africa and regions in the United States.

Manager for Cane Growers Proserpine Mike Porter said, although it wouldn't be a direct financial hit to local growers, it was not fair to single out the sugar industry for the obesity epidemic.

"Our growers are paid by the international commodity price and the sugar produced out of Proserpine is for export internationally out of Mackay,” he said.

"The tax implications lie with the consumers and the refiners but as other countries adopt a similar tax - that's where we would receive financial backlash.

"Having said that, it's definitely not a win for the sugar industry and we would not support a sugar tax because of the flow on effects across the industry.

"We feel the sugar industry is being demonised for the obesity epidemic; singling out sugar and placing a tax on it won't fix obesity and it's not fair on industry to carry that burden.”

"Obesity is about more than just sugar,” he said.

"It is about being healthy and exercising and having a balanced diet.

"We produce a safe commodity if used in balance.”