In a move to promote a healthy lifestyle and discourage its citizens from indulging their sweet tooth, Malaysia may scrap a costly sugar subsidy, a minister said on Wednesday.
"The ministry is going on a campaign to ask Malaysians to take less sugar and there are calls from the NGOs asking the government to remove the sugar subsidy," deputy trade and consumerism Minister Tan Lian Hoe told AFP.
"We are looking into this proposal as we hope Malaysians can consume less sugar for a healthier lifestyle, because sugar causes a lot of illnesses," she said.
The government said it is spending 720 million ringgit (213 million dollars) annually to subsidise the cost of sugar, one of a basket of price-controlled commodities.
Malaysia, a multicultural country which is home to Muslim Malays and ethnic Chinese and Indians, is famed for its cuisine, but excessive consumption is being blamed for emerging health problems such as obesity and diabetes.
Sugar here is currently among the cheapest in the region, triggering cross-border smuggling and mass sales to neighbouring countries.
The withdrawal of the subsidy would see the price of sugar jump by about 70 percent from 1.45 ringgit to 2.45 ringgit per kilo, trade and consumer minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama.
Ismail Sabri said a survey has found that obesity among Malaysians rose from 16 percent in 1996 to 29.1 percent in 2006.