Food manufacturers want legislators to exempt milk products from a planned sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) tax that is included in sweeping revenue reforms being pushed by the government.
“We respectfully pray that the Senate will not include any milk tax in House Bill [HB] 5636 because we firmly believe that by taxing milk, it will deprive the lower income and undernourished segments of the population of access to a rich source of affordable nutrition-milk,” said Elizabeth de Leon-Lim, president of Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers, Inc.
HB 5636 or the the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (Train) bill, was passed in May by the House of Representatives and is currently being considered by the Senate as it deliberates its own version, Senate Bill 1408.
“Levying a tax on milk products will increase prices by as much as 30 percent. The increase will bring these products beyond the reach especially of the lower income and undernourished segments of the population, depriving them of a rich source of otherwise affordable nutrition,” Lim said.
The chamber said powdered milk prices could rise by 11 percent to 26 percent while flavored milk, specifically chocolate flavored brands, will see prices rise by 11 percent to 34 percent.
Higher prices could take a toll on nutrition, with the chamber noting that the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) recommends one glass of milk per day.
It said that based on a Save the Children study done in collaboration with FNRI-DOST, education and productivity losses as a result of child undernutrition totaled P328 billion in 2013, equivalent to 2.84 percent of the country’s gross domestic product for that year.
The same study found that after more than 25 years of steady improvement, childhood undernutrition rose by more than 10 percent from 2013 to 2015. Stunting among children under five years old increased by more than 10 percent from 2013 to 2015, from 30.3 percent in 2013 to 33.4 percent in 2015. Underweight increased from 20 percent to 21.5 percent.
Rather than curtailing access to affordable sources of nutrition such as milk, the chamber urged the government to direct its focus and resources on “nutritional interventions” that could effectively reduce malnutrition, undernutrition, stunting and wasting among children.
It said that countries with SSB taxes such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Mexico had excluded milk and dairy products because of their nutritional value.