In April, the government introduced a tax on sugary foods, known as the health promotion levy, that saw the price of sweets and soft drinks go up.
Ahead of the Budget speech on Wednesday, the SA Canegrowers Association said the levy had cost the sugar industry nearly R1bn since implementation.
Graeme Stainbank, chairperson of the association, said they were calling on Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to use his maiden Budget speech to put the levy on ice while a thorough assessment of its impact on the economy and jobs was made.
Stainbank said the tax had so far cost the industry R925m in the 2018/19 year, with 64% of the loss incurred by sugarcane growers.
He said the loss translated to potential job losses of 6500 in the cane-growing sector alone and did not include further job losses in the sugar milling and beverage industries.
“The tax has dealt a huge blow to an industry struggling with the impact of drought, plunging sugar prices and weak protection against cheap imports. It is devastating to farmworkers, land-reform farmers and small-scale growers,” Stainbank said.
He added that there wasn't any evidence that sugary products had any impact on public health. “This is because obesity is a multifaceted problem with many causes, including increasingly sedentary lifestyles and a growing reliance on cheap and highly calorific junk food."