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Dateline Southeast Asia

Sugar tax one step closer to implementation in Thailand

By RJ Whitehead , 05-May-2016

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Soft drinks could cost up to 25% more in Thailand after the National Reform Steering Assembly’s health panel approved by 153 votes to two a proposal to increase taxes for non-alcoholic drinks with high content of sugar.

The proposal, which will now require endorsement by the cabinet, sets out two levies: a 20% tax for drinks which contain 6-10g of sugar per 100ml and 25% for drinks with over 10g of sugar per 100ml.

According to the panel, carbonated drinks, green tea, coffee, energy drinks, sour milk, soy milk and juices will be taxable in a move that is aimed to cut Thailand’s high consumption of sweetened drinks. Statistics show that the country is ranked ninth in the world for sugar consumption.

Claiming that most local beverages contain more than 6g of sugar per 100ml, the panel said the proposed tax would increase national income by more than THB10bn (US$2.9bn) a year. 

The NRSA also plans to ask the Interior Ministry to regulate lucky-draw marketing campaigns, a popular feature by soft drinks manufacturers, to further reduce the nation’s sugar intake. 

 

More stories from Southeast Asia…

Vietnam’s PM: ’Whole political system’ responsible for food safety

Vietnam’s newly installed prime minister has chaired his first meeting to tackle the country’s pressing issue of food safety.

Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that improvements could only be made “with the engagement of the whole political system”.

Nguyen Xuan Phuc

Cabinet members attended the meeting, along with all of Vietnam’s local officials, to work on measures to ensure quality food, especially in the context of chemical contamination and smuggled food of unknown origin that was flooding markets across the country.

Issues surround food safety had been blamed on local authorities for their ineffective handling of violations, Phuc said, adding that lenient punishments for smugglers and producers of substandard goods had also failed to act as a deterrent.

We have to make food producers, local leaders and state agencies clear on their responsibilities in supervision and inspection tasks,” the prime minister said.

Only then can we create synchronised effort to ensure food safety.”

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam ordered officials to focus first on stopping the use salbutamol, a banned substance that stimulates growth in pigs; reducing the widespread use of antibiotics in animal breeding; and tackling fake beverages and dietary supplements.

As the meeting took place, Hanoi’s environment police seized 3.7 tonnes of frozen meat of unknown origin at a warehouse in the city.

The cold storage unit was found to be storing cattle parts, though the owner was unable to provide valid paperwork on their origin, nor were there quarantine licences or food safety certificates.

 

Ifad approves US$30m grant to reduce malnutrition in rural Laos

The UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development will support the Laos government by joint-financing and implement a project to reduce extreme poverty and malnutrition for 34,000 poor rural households in the north of the country.

The US$38.8m project will target the poor in roughly 400 villages across 12 districts and place emphasis on empowering women to improve their families’ diets, particularly for infants during the first 1,000 days of life. 

Elsewhere, the grant will help develop farmers’ organisations and encourage smallholders to develop personalised action plans for profitable farming.

Ifad will supply a US$30m grant, bolstered by an additional US$5.4m from the government, US$500,000 from the private sector and US$2.9m from the participants themselves.

“The project will reduce malnutrition and enhance income and food security in rural communities by supporting nutrition-sensitive and climate-smart agricultural practices,” said Hoonae Kim, director of Ifad’s Asia and the Pacific division.

In Laos, undernutrition and food insecurity remain stubbornly high with stunting levels for children under five years of age as high as 61% in some provinces. 

According to Ifad, improving women’s nutrition is critical to breaking the intergenerational cycle. This, it says, can be done in part by providing training and building awareness around nutrition. 

Communities most prone to undernutrition live in upland areas where household income mostly comes from agriculture and non-timber forest product extraction.

 

DSM sponsors senior fellowship at SMU

DSM has provided a S$200,000 (US$149,000) grant to establish a senior fellowship in partnership and sustainability at the Singapore Management University. 

Pieter Nuboer, DSM’s Asia-Pacific vice-president, said: “Through the Master’s of Tri-Sector Collaboration programme at SMU, this fellowship will help advance knowledge, foster best practices, help shape policies, facilitate networks and promote partnerships in sustainable development.” 

The fellowship’s first appointment will focus on the intersection of economic policy, business strategy and transformation, and sustainability outcomes. 

Simon Zadek, the incumbent, will teach a course on “partnership mindset and sustainability” that looks at the rationale behind collaborative efforts of government, civil society and enterprise to work together to build businesses and societies that are able to thrive in an interconnected 21st century environment. 

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