The long-discussed imposition of 35% tariffs on imported Russian fish was finally confirmed last week, following a meeting between the fish and chip sector and Defra minister Victoria Prentis, reports Andy Read.

The tariffs will be applied immediately to all fish products from both Russian and Belarus, and come at a time when the fish and chip shop trade is facing multiple threats, with predictions that as many as 1,000 outlets could close this year.

Andrew Crook, president of the National Federation of Fish Fryers, who wrote earlier this year about his own efforts to diversify away from Russian fish, with South African hake now featuring on his menu (Fishing News, 12 May, ‘The Ukraine conflict and its effect on fish and chips’), told FN: “As ever, we will get behind anything that helps bring the Ukraine conflict to a speedy conclusion.

“Most goods from Russia are subject to tariffs, and we can’t expect special treatment. We had hoped, given the situation we face, that this could have been delayed, but we have to face up to this and find a way forward.

“I am back from a recent and successful trip to Norway, where we discussed with the Norwegian Council the possibility of Norwegian vessels, currently landing headed and gutted fish for shore processing, to switch to at-sea fillet production. This requires them to recruit extra crew, but the price increases seen for cod and haddock fillets means that it is now economic to do so.”

Much Russian fish is reprocessed in China and elsewhere, and relabelled, and as such is likely to evade the tariffs, but Andrew Crook told FN that the situation for his members is still dire. “We haven’t been able to pass on to customers the full price increases we have seen for sunflower oil and power, further impacting margins. Now we face warnings that the heatwave will see the price of British potatoes increase due to poor crops!

“There will of course always be a future for quality fish and chip shops, but this year is presenting us with some real challenges.

“We are pleased that the minister has committed to working with us, potential suppliers and the British Retail Consortium to address the pressures we face. This is a long-term change, that requires a complete reboot of supply chains.

“We hear fully the concerns raised by Jimmy Buchan about the long-term investment needed that would help our members switch to Scottish haddock, and would support requests from processors that the UK government provides them with the investment climate they need. Long-term planning is vital for catching, processing and frying sectors, and the more support we can provide each other, the better.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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