Health Minister Kim Wilson informed MPs yesterday that Bermuda’s new sugar tax will be introduced in stages, following the backlash by local businesses.

The 75 per cent tax, scheduled to begin at the start of this month, will now be introduced in April 2019.

And the new modified legislation gives local businesses like bakeries a break from the top tariff.

The Bill, now proposes a new duty rate of 50 percent on sugar to start on October 1.

Kim Wilson, Minister of Health

The legislation, passed on Friday by MPs, was designed to target sugary drinks and sweets, including powdered drinks — but diet sodas have now been given a reprieve.

Some businesses claimed the tax on high-sugar sweet products would hit their profits and encourage shoppers to buy “even worse food alternatives” than home-made, baked goods.

Ms Wilson conceded the changes were adopted after further consultation and feedback.

She also noted that the “phased implementation does not detract from this government’s determination and commitment to this progressive step”.

The Minister told MPs that similar legislation elsewhere had been shown to reduce consumption of sugar-laden sodas and other products that cause major health problems such as diabetes and obesity.

“I can’t emphasise enough that these preventable diseases are crippling our country physically and financially,” said the Minister.

A recent survey in Bermuda found that 52 percent of respondents supported the tax, with 44 percent against.

Ms Wilson said prices would not go up by 75 percent as a result of the tax. But prices could increase by 20 to 50 percent for island-made foods, with bread possibly going up 5 percent and bakery items by 15 percent.

Ms Wilson said the cost of fudge, which she said was “almost 100 per cent sugar”, could go up by 50 percent.

However, another amendment proposed a concessionary rate scheme for island-based food makers.

Ms Wilson said taxes would be proposed for chocolate, at present not included in the legislation, at a later date.

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