KARACHI: Instead of increasing taxes on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) on the call from International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and local health experts, the government has enhanced the sales tax on dairy products, making them unaffordable for a large portion of the society and depriving them of nutritious dietary products, health experts said on Wednesday.
On the request from IDF and the Diabetic Association of Pakistan (DAP), Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan had recommended the finance minister to increase Federal Excise Duty on SSBs from 12.5 to 20 percent. Instead, the federal authorities increased taxes on dairy products while taxes on hazardous SSBs, including carbonated drinks, remained the same.
Health experts and nutritionists strongly reacted over an increase in taxes on dairy products in the federal budget 2021-2022, arguing that enhancing taxes on dairy products including cheese, butter, yogurt, powdered milk and dairy cream would not only make them unaffordable but also deprive society of an important source of nutrition.
“It is very unfortunate that General Sales Tax (GST) tax on dairy products is being increased from 10 to 17 percent. If the dairy products are made unaffordable, it would be very unfortunate,” said Fayza Khan, President of Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society (PNDS) while talking to The News. She said dairy products are an important component of health and nutrition at a time when people were suffering due to Covid-19 pandemic.
Another nutrition consultant Dr Naveed Bhutto was of the opinion that dairy products were not only good for health but were also essential for human well-being if taken in moderation and added that increase in their cost would limit their consumption and result in depriving people of an important source of proteins, minerals, fats and micronutrients.
“Most of our population are compelled to eat carbohydrates-rich food. So if the cost of dairy products is increased due to federal taxation, it would further result in malnutrition in the society where millions of people are already malnourished,” he added. The dairy products are an important source of nutrition but if taxes are enhanced, their prices would increase and make them unaffordable, said Dr. Khurram Nizami, a health expert.
Health experts and nutritionists have demanded that instead of increasing taxes on essential food items and dairy products, it should make them more affordable as most people depend on butter, cheese, dairy cream, yogurt and fortified powdered products to meet their nutritional needs. “They are an important source of calcium, proteins, fats and micronutrients.
According to experts, 45 percent of deaths in children under the age of five are from malnutrition, while 4 out of 10 children were suffering from stunted growth in 2018. As per nutrition survey, one out of every third child in Pakistan is under-weight, half of the children are anemic, more than half are vitamin A deficient while vitamin D deficiency is around 63 percent among them. Malnutrition is rampant in rural communities and for them fortified dairy products are an important source of nutrition. Loose milk sold in the market is often adulterated, loses its nutritional value, resulting in packaged milk being the choice for many consumers.