Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Why sugar subsidy should be withdrawn immediately

sugar-priceThe Government should stop subsidising the price of sugar since sugar is nothing less than a toxic substance.

The recent 20 sen increase in each kilo of sugar means that the government will still end up subsidising a sinful sum of RM1 billion in 2010, based on a subsidy of 80 sen per kilogram. Malaysians consume an average of 26 teaspoons of sugar per day. This sweet indulgence has resulted in nearly 1.2 million Malaysians with diabetes, more than 98% with Type 2 diabetes, which is strongly linked to high sugar consumption.
Sugar should be sold at its market price because:
 
-- It is not a basic necessity and its consumption is most harmful to one’s health.
 
-- With the total withdrawal of subsidy, the price of sugar will increase by 80 sen per kilogram but this should not lead to a drastic increase in the price of sugar-based food and drinks.
 
-- Based on our calculations, the cost of the main ingredients in a cup of teh tarik and Milo is about 28 sen and 45 sen respectively, though they are sold at RM1.00 and RM1.20 respectively.
 
-- The subsidy mainly benefits the manufacturers of fizzy drinks and sugar-based food products.
 
-- Countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand have a per capita income that is lower than Malaysia yet they pay more for their sugar.
 
-- The RM1 billion subsidy can be better used to help fund programmes to eradicate poverty and for the improvement of public health.

We would like to reiterate that it makes no sense to subsidise the very substance that is injurious to our health when the money can be better spent elsewhere.

In the 1970s Malaysians consumed 17 teaspoons of sugar a day and this rose to 21 teaspoons in the 1980s. Now, they are consuming an average of 26 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Most people find it hard to believe or accept that we can be consuming an average of 26 teaspoons of sugar a day because we may be thinking  of the sugar we add by ourselves into our food, but an increasing amount of sugar that is consumed by Malaysians is contained in processed drinks and food.

Some soft drinks contain an average of 7 teaspoons of sugar per can. Consumers are often unaware of how much sugar they are consuming in total per day. Over 60 ailments have been linked to sugar consumption, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma, and allergies. Some of these killer diseases are showing worrying upward trends in just a few years.

The price of sugar in Malaysia is amongst the lowest in this region.  Sugar is priced at RM1.60 per kilogram and RM1.75 in East Malaysia. However the price of sugar in our neighbouring countries like Singapore is RM3.13, the Philippines RM2.85, Thailand RM2.31 and Indonesia RM2.62 to RM2.79 respectively.

Urgent action is needed to curb our high national sugar consumption.

Besides REMOVING the subsidy on sugar, the Government should also take the following measures to reduce the consumption of sugar among Malaysians:

-- Impose a sin tax for sale of high-sugared, high-fat and high-salt foods;

-- Bring to a halt the advertisement of highly-sugared and other junk foods and drinks during children’s television viewing hours. Children are susceptible to media pressure.

-- Educate school children on the dangers of excessive sugar intake through health education, home science and cookery lessons.

-- Educate the public on the dangers of sugar intake through the media (television, radio and press).

-- Encourage children to avoid sweet drinks in schools by providing drinking water in water dispensers around school premises. Sweet drinks should not be sold in school canteens.

-- Have a total ban on the sale of junk food in school canteens.

-- Ban food hawking within a fixed perimeter around schools so that schoolchildren are not tempted to consume unhealthy foods.

-- Put an end to child-height confectionary displays at supermarkets and grocery stores which are usually placed near checkout counters to attract children.

-- Initiate the removal of vending machines dispensing junk food and sugary drinks from areas such as hospitals, airports and schools.

Read more on how sugar is responsible for more than 60 diseases in the CAP Guide, How Sugar Destroys Your Health