Meat tax under consideration in the Netherlands
Agriculture Minister Henk Staghouwer is investigating the introduction of a levy on meat. He is looking into the "feasibility of the measure," the Minister said in a letter to parliament about food policy. Staghouwer's plan cannot count on the support of all coalition parties. The VVD and CDA are against it. They want to encourage people to make "more sustainable and healthier choices," which Staghouwer also mentioned as an option.
Staghouwer wants the proceeds of a meat levy to go to livestock farmers, who can use the money to make them more sustainable. A previous study commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture showed that a meat tax that specifically benefits organic farmers could be an effective measure.
In the coalition agreement, the Cabinet already said it wanted to levy an extra tax on sugary drinks and scrap VAT on fruit and vegetables. In this way, "consumers can be encouraged to make affordable, healthier, and more sustainable choices," Staghouwer thinks.
"Convenience" and "habit" also play important roles in consumers' choices. The Cabinet, therefore, also wants to lower the threshold for people to make healthy choices in the supermarkets "by, for example, setting a minimum percentage of sustainable and/or organic food on the shelves." An evaluation of recent years' policy showed that it is important to set concrete goals. The government also wants to work on that.
As an example, Staghouwer mentioned the goal of consumers getting 50 percent of their protein from animals and 50 percent from vegetables instead of the current ratio of 60 percent animal proteins and 40 percent vegetable protein. That goal is not set in stone, he stressed. "If developments or new insights mean that a tightening or acceleration of a goal is needed, this may lead to a reconsideration."
The VVD and CDA are against the idea of a meat tax. CDA MP Derk Boswijk called it "not the right way" to achieve more sustainable and healthier choices. "Groceries must remain affordable now and in the future," he said. As far as Boswijk is concerned, the Cabinet should rather focus on more "awareness."
VVD MP Thom van Campen also wants to slam the brakes. "We cannot support the one-sided path towards a meat tax that is now being taken." He wants the Minister to investigate other options "because groceries must remain affordable for everyone."