The sugar industry is in for a tough time, it seems, because knowledge is closing in on the detrimental effect the sweet stuff can have on our health. Apparently, more than 70 health disorders are connected to sugar consumption, some of the more common being diabetes, poor brain development in children, lack of concentration, allergies, asthma, ADHD, hypoglycaemia and mood swings.1

Alongside causes such as heart failure, stroke, malaria and cancer, according to the World Health Organization, diabetes kills as many people as HIV/AIDS does, and is more deadly than traffic accidents.2 Internationally, diabetes treatment makes up 10% of all healthcare costs – a global price tag of US$470 billion.3

According to the 2013 South African National Health and Nutrition Survey compiled by the Human Sciences Research Council, more than 39% of South Africa’s female population is obese, and more than 68% have a waist circumference that placed them at risk of metabolic complications.4 In 2017 the imposition of a tax on sugary drinks was announced, although introduction has been delayed.

The other side of the coin is that, according to the South African Sugar Association5 in South Africa, the sugar industry provides almost 80 000 jobs. It has an income of R12 billion a year, and sugar cane is the second largest crop, by gross value. There are clearly competing interests at stake.

The Sugar Act 1978 regulates our sugar industry. It is administered by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, but essentially works on the basis of implementing the ‘Sugar Industry Agreement’. This is an agreement determined by the Minister in consultation with the Sugar Association. It is binding on every sugar grower, miller, and refiner. The latest version is the Sugar Industry Agreement 2000.6 In terms of Section 4(3) of the Act, the Minister can declare non-compliance with or contravention of the Agreement or the failure to comply with notices issued by the Association’s Tribunals to be an offence, but to date has not done so.7

  1. ‘Shocking Statistics About Sugar Consumption’. 

  2. - ‘The-Top-10 Causes of Death’. 

  3. ‘Shocking Statistics About Sugar Consumption’. 

  4. ‘Sugar Coating a Deadly Health Crisis’. 

  5. See

  6. See 

  7. Section 4(3).