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Sweet Nothings


Sweet Nothings examines the tax practices of one of the world’s largest food multinationals, the Associated British Foods (ABF) group, in Zambia, one of the most impoverished countries in which it operates. ABF owns food brands such as Silver Spoon sugar, Kingsmill bread, Ryvita and Patak’s, as well as clothing chain Primark.

The report looks particularly at the activities of ABF’s Zambian subsidiary, Zambia Sugar, which has taken advantage of lawful loopholes in international tax law, and benefited from tax breaks offered by the Zambian government, resulting in the Zambian Government losing over $17.7 million in tax revenues since 2007: the equivalent of 14 times what the UK Government has provided to Zambia to tackle hunger and food security over the same period. In this report, we show how tackling the problem requires both national and international action across three fronts: companies’ ingenious financial engineering; weak international tax rules; and governments’ deliberate tax policies.