Health Minister Kim Wilson has deferred a final decision on the new raw sugar tax for further consultation on the full impact of the proposed 75 percent hike on Bermuda’s baking industry.

Health Minister Kim Wilson

That was one of the disclosures made on Friday, in a Ministerial Statement delivered on the floor of the House of Assembly, where Ms Wilson told MPs that more than half the people polled support a new sugar tax.

On the impact the proposed tax on raw sugar she said the feedback from small business owners had been taken into account.

“This concern will be considered further as the consultation feedback is analysed and we refine the policy direction,” said the Minister.

“Options may be available to help us advance the policy objective to reduce sugar consumption, without disadvantaging local businesses.

“I’m certain we will be able to find the right balance to promote healthier eating among our residents.”

On the Government survey and the 345 residents polled, Ms Wilson said  the interim report showed:

  • 52 percent of people were in favour of a sugar tax, with 44 percent against
  • 29 percent believed 100 percent fruit juice should be included 
  • 37 percent believed milk-based items should be taxed
  • 47 percent believed dilutables should be included
  • 60 percent believed candy should be taxed 
  • 43 percent believed the tax should set at 75 percent 

The Minister also reiterated that the Government is “serious about reducing chronic diseases in Bermuda and considering all the options to reduce the impact of life-style related health problems”.

And she noted that “duty rate amendments were developed to eliminate the duty on health essential foods to help Bermuda eat a healthier diet to prevent chronic diseases like diabetes”.

“While we await the full analysis of the responses, the Ministry is conscious of the valuable public discussion that took place during the consultation period which highlighted other things we should consider beyond the proposals which were set out in the consultation paper.

“The comments and feedback received from members of the public will be analysed in detail in the full Consultation Report, so we can look for better ways to address the concerns, such as the opinions expressed about whether items like diet drinks and chocolate should be included.”

Additionally, she said: “The Government is also conscious that concern was raised in the public dialogue that the proposal to tax raw sugar could negatively impact small local businesses such as bakers. In contrast, imported baked goods were not proposed to be subject to the tax, potentially creating disadvantage for local businesses.

“This concern will be further considered further as the consultation feedback is analysed, and we refine the policy direction.”

Minister Wilson added: “We have to consider all the feedback in full.” But for now, she said: “I just want the public to be aware that we have listened to the discussion, and are using the feedback to develop and refine the policy options to implement a sugar tax that is feasible and meaningful to our local content.”

And on that note, she said the Ministry was “very pleased with the extensive feedback and public discussion instigated by this consultation process”.

Moving forward, she told MPs that she will come back with more information by the next Parliamentary Session.