October 5, 2016
Conservative Home: In recent years, Belvoir Fruit Farms has gone from a tiny farm business making drinks in our kitchen to my Mum’s homemade recipes to one of the UK’s best-loved growing drinks brands, which is still owned by me and my family.
We have worked extremely hard to achieve this success. However, like all small and medium businesses in the UK today this would have been much harder to achieve without the right support.
The Government still claims that it wants to help British manufacturers succeed but I’m afraid to say that its decision to proceed with the soft drinks tax will have the opposite effect on soft drinks producers, particularly for smaller, expanding companies like mine.
The possibility of an exemption for smaller producers has been mooted but this will not apply to Belvoir as we are just above the cut-off point and so it will aid our competition substantially to erode our sales.
This tax will hit us hard and seriously limit plans for future growth in both the UK and abroad for our business. Export is becoming increasingly important for us with sales rising over 30% between 2014 and 2015 and these products will also be liable for this tax, which seems crazy as they will be sold overseas: even if one of our drinks doesn’t reach the tax threshold we will have to pay the tax when we make it and receive a ‘credit’ the following year, which seems ridiculous too. These will hammer our cash flow.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the tax will not only hit manufacturers but also have a negative impact on other industries and local communities. Recent analysis by Oxford Economics shows that over 4,000 jobs nationwide will be lost as a result of the tax predominantly in pubs, restaurants and local shops, all to save 5 calories per day per person, which is peanuts!
There are many strong economic arguments, why the Government should not go ahead with this tax, particularly with the economic uncertainty that lies ahead for both businesses and consumers.
There is also another fundamental reason why they should not proceed with this tax; there is no evidence worldwide that it will actually work or have any impact on levels of obesity in this country. it hasn’t worked elsewhere where it has been tried.
This is no surprise. Drinking a soft drink which contains a bit of sugar as part of a healthy diet, alongside moderate exercise does not create a weight problem. I’ve been brought up on our Belvoir Fruit Farms cordials which are natural and delicious, I still drink them most evenings and I’m in fine fettle.
Obesity is not caused by one single product or ingredient but the combined effect of eating and drinking too much with a lack of exercise.
I recognise we do face a major public health challenge and the Government is absolutely right to address it but demonising one product, ironically the only one in which sugar intake is falling because of innovations such as our “Lights” range, surely cannot be the answer.
I urge the Government to scrap this ineffective and harmful tax before it’s too late.