Business leaders in the fish and chips industry are urging the government to propose a “long-term strategy” for their food shortage crisis – or face the closure of a third of the chips.
The National Deep Frying Federation (NFFF) has warned that the four main ingredients that make up the traditional fish and chips dish have been hit hard by the long-running Russian-Ukrainian conflict – forcing stores to change their menus, raise prices or, at worst, close.
The UK is largely dependent on Ukraine for sunflower oil supplies. The NFFF said 50% of the oil used by British fish and chips stores comes from a war-torn country, and alternatives such as rapeseed and palm oil have risen in price.
Up to 40% of cod and haddock come from Russia – and UK sanctions against Russian whitefish will make these supplies to the North Sea smaller and more expensive.
Fertilizers for potatoes – mostly from Russia – have risen three times. Also from the region comes flour used to prepare fish batter.
As a result, there is a shortage of basic ingredients in the world, which means that costs are rising as profits decline.
Knights is a fish and chips store in Glastonbury.
It is believed to be one of the oldest family chips in the UK, which started trading in Somerset during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Impact with CORONIVAL INFECTION COVID and the cost of living crisis has hit family businesses like this hard.
“Worse times ahead”
29-year-old George Mori manages takeaway food.
The family business has survived two world wars, a recession and a global pandemic.
But George worries that the war in Ukraine could be a nail in the coffin.
He said: “Will there be enough (fish) if we refuse to buy Russian white fish? This is a really big concern.
“Will we have to think about finding another product on the menu to replace fish and chips – could the impact be so grand? I think if prices go up, we can remember that.”
George added: “We need to prepare for the worst times ahead, and I think this is perhaps the biggest challenge the fish and chips industry has ever faced.”
Entrepreneur James Lipscomb owns 40 fish and chips stores across the country.
He diversified his range – adding to the menu lesser-known fish such as hake – to offer his regular customers affordable dishes.
He told Sky News: “I’ve never seen anything like it.
“I’m watching the closure of fish and chips shops across the UK. Every week I see shops closing and it’s a really sad state of affairs.”
Demand for action
He added: “We have been doing this for a very long time as a family. We have been involved in this industry for almost 100 years. It is sad to see what is happening through no fault of these businesses.”
Industry leaders are desperate for intervention.
Andrew Crook, president of the National Deep Fryers Federation, is urging the government to act more urgently.
He told Sky News that many of its members think those in power are “not worried” about the potential damage facing its sector.
“Act now! We need to act before there is long-term damage that cannot be repaired,” he said.
“We’re not looking for filing. We’re a proud industry. But a lot of businesses are going to wall up and we need a long-term strategy to refine.”
A government spokesman told Sky News that he “will continue to talk to the industry body, the National Fish Fryers Federation and other industry representatives about the current pressures they are facing”.
The future of this seaside product remains unclear.
But there are fears that if the situation does not change, it will mean less affordability – and perhaps higher prices – for those looking for one of the nation’s favorite dishes.