Healthier foods are often cheaper and can be as tasty as the foods we normally eat. It’s OK to have some higher calorie foods occasionally, such as cakes or crisps, but mainly eat meals made from vegetables, fruit, whole grains and low fat dairy products.
A Government minister has recommended that healthy foods attract lower taxes than unhealthy options to make nutritious food more affordable for Barbadians.
Minister of Energy and Business Senator Lisa Cummins offered the suggestion on Wednesday as she contended that as the country continues to grapple with a non-communicable disease (NCD) crisis and healthy foods remain more expensive to purchase, it was time to switch up the taxes.
“[We must] look at the tariff structure around healthy foods to ensure that you transfer the tariffs on healthy foods onto unhealthy foods, making healthier foods more affordable for people and, therefore, lessening the cost to the healthcare system as a result of non-communicable diseases and also recurring issues that can be resolved in terms of obesity, in particular childhood obesity,” Senator Cummins said in the Upper House as she tabled a resolution to approve the vesting of land in Black Rock, St Michael in the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) for community agricultural purposes.
She said projects like the one that will be undertaken by the BADMC in Black Rock would also assist in making healthy foods affordable.
Senator Cummins said providing land in communities for agricultural projects allows people to “not only grow healthy food and consume healthy food but also connect to entrepreneurship, small business development, and the growth of those businesses to serve more than their communities but to be in a position to become scalable to serve their country”.
A recent study by the Heart and Stroke Foundation found that, on average, unhealthy foods imports are ten per cent cheaper than healthy foods imports. The organisation had, therefore, called for a flip on the taxes.
Cummins reported that the Ministry of Commerce had also found the prices of vegetables were “higher than anything else within the price compact” which the Government and the private sector signed to limit mark-ups on some food items.
She was adamant that this situation must be addressed to encourage people to opt for healthier choices, rather than cheaper and less nutritious options.
The minister also gave support to the push for front-of-package labelling to allow consumers to easily see what is in the products they are purchasing, and said a meeting was recently held with the Barbados National Standards Institute and the Healthy Caribbean Coalition on that issue.