Food and drinks sector set to fight new tax on ‘unhealthy’ products

Food and drinks sector set to fight new tax on ‘unhealthy’ products

The announcement of a new tax on ‘unhealthy products’ has brought condemnation from all sides and seems to have set the cat among the pigeons in the government.
Finance minister Maria Luís Albuquerque said last week that the government was considering a new levy on products “considered harmful to the population’s health”.
The tax would affect alcohol, tobacco, soft drinks and even salt, said newspapers.
Albuquerque’s announcement set fur flying in the food and drinks sector – but it also seemed to ruffle economy minister Pires de Lima who told newspapers the whole idea was “a fiction”.
Talking to Público newspaper over the weekend, he said: “There is no tax. It is fiction, a ghost that was never discussed in the Council of Ministers and whose speculation only tampers with the functioning of the economy.”
His words were welcomed by producers up and down the country who fear any tax of this kind would lead to further unemployment.
National Association of Alcoholic Drinks Companies (ANEBE), predicted “major layoffs in the industry” if new charges came into effect, while prize-winning salt producer Terras do Sal called the whole idea “shallow”.
“Salt is a low-cost product, so any change to the production cost will have a huge impact,” Luís Horta Correia told Dinheiro Vivo – also admitting to having been “taken by surprise” by the news.
All involved are now scratching their heads even further as the government will have to regroup and come up with a consensus.
Justifying the tax last week, Maria Luís Albuquerque said: “The National Health Services’ debt cannot be counteracted with only one source of revenue; additional contributions are needed, such as from the pharmaceutical industry, or the taxing of products that are harmful to one’s health.”
Elsewhere, other countries have implemented similar taxes.
In 2011, Finland began taxing products with excessive sugar, and in 2012, France implemented a special tax for drinks with artificial sweeteners.
Energy drinks have been targeted in Hungary, while Japan and Denmark charge a ‘fat tax’ on products with excessive fat levels.