Dateline Southeast Asia

Thailand mulls action to curb extravagant soft drink promotions

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soft drink

Thailand mulls action to curb extravagant soft drink promotions
Thailand’s government is considering measures to regulate the advertising of soft drinks, including green tea, which it says is behind the country’s soaring sugar consumption. 

Sutha Jienmaneechotchai, deputy director-general of the Department of Health, said a proposal would be made to consumer protection and food authorities that identified ways to reduce sugar use.

Thais consume on average 104g, equivalent to 26 teaspoons, of sugar a day—over twice the level recommended by the World Health Organisation—according to official figures.

Though traditional sources of sugar in Thai diets, largely derived from rice and fruit, are not considered harmful when part of a balanced regime, Dr Sutha said the current trend towards processed foods, and sugary drinks in particular, has been taking sugar consumption to excessive levels.

He said green tea was found to contain the levels of 12-14 teaspoons per serving while iced coffees, carbonated soft drinks and packaged juices contained around 10 teaspoons of sugar.

He singled out soft drink promotions that offered cars and gold to consumers for helping to boost Thailand’s sugar rush.

Bottle cap contests have increased lately in Thailand’s highly competitive beverage market after they were introduced by high-profile businessman Tan Passakornnatee several years ago.

Iced tea brands such as Ichitan, Yen Yen and Rishi have been behind recent campaigns in Thailand to give away new iPhones, Mercedes-Benz cars and other riches in return for buying their products.

Thai people like lucky draw campaigns​,” said Dr Sutha. “Letting companies freely arrange the promotions has boosted consumption​.”

Thailand’s soft drinks market was worth THB46bn (US$1.3bn) last year, according to W&R Research figures. The same study found that over a quarter of Thais consume a soft drink three or four times each week. 

More stories from southeast Asia…

Australian exporters set to benefit from Indonesia’s demand boom

Indonesia’s demand for imports of meat and produce will see 20-fold growth, Australia’s agriculture department has predicted, leading to significant opportunities for exporters who are already well-versed with the market.

Indonesia

The southeast Asian country’s fast-growing and increasingly affluent urban population is showing particular demand for meat, dairy products, and fruit and vegetables. 

By 2050, the market will be worth US$150bn, Abares, the Ministry of Agriculture’s commodity forecaster, said in the report.

Assuming no significant change to agricultural productivity growth, food imports will be an important component of Indonesia's food and feed supply towards 2050​,” the report said. 

Because of their geographic proximity, Australia and Indonesia are well placed to benefit from advancing bilateral agricultural trade​.”

"In the case of Indonesia, the current consumption level per person is relatively low. But with income growth, for the future we expect that demand will increase quote significantly over the period to 2050​," Jammie Penm, Abares chief commodity analyst, told ABC.

"With urbanisation, with income growth, we will expect demand for high-quality beef will increase quite significantly, and also there will be more diverse dietary habits; changing perhaps from rice-based products to wheat-based products, from rice and staple foods to more protein-based foods​.”

In 2014, half of Indonesia's imported wheat came from Australia, representing 20% of Australia's total wheat exports. Indonesia is Australia's largest export market for wheat.

Vietnam demands action to curb growing pesticide levels in produce

Vietnam’s agriculture ministry has pledged its resources to end the rampant use of prohibited substances in farming and called on communities to co-operate.

Vietnam

Addressing the National Assembly in Hanoi to answer claims by deputies who had expressed concerns over weak management in curtailing the use of banned substances, minister Cao Duc Phat said a joint-effort was needed to improve the safety of produce.

Phat said farmers must learn the health impacts associated with using banned substances and antibiotics, and urged agricultural communities to help develop safe food supply chains for transporting goods to cities.

Safety officials should also be stricter when handling breaches, with an emphasis placed on the safety of produce, Phat said.

Inspections in the nine months to September showed that pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables had increased to 10.3% this year from the usual level of 6-8%, according to the ministry. 

At the same time, 7.6% of meat was found to contain prohibited levels of antibiotic and substance residues.

Therefore, we are implementing a food safety and hygiene campaign until next February and have adopted measures to redress the situation​,” Phat said.

We are committed to eliminating the use of such forbidden substances in livestock farming​,” Phat said.

Tran Trong Binh, deputy head of the Ministry of Public Security’s environmental police department blamed poor co-ordination among law enforcement agencies for the rampant use of forbidden substances in animal husbandry, as well as pesticide residue in vegetables and fruits.

Binh added that public information campaigns to promote safe products for consumption had not been effective.

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