Will fish and chips get more expensive due to sanctions on Russia?

Britain's national dish is likely to grow in price as a consequence of the UK's sanctions on Russia. Credit: PA/AP

The UK, despite having fish and chips as one of its national dishes, imports hundreds of thousands of tonnes of seafood from other nations each year in order to satisfy a country of fish lovers.

But there are concerns that the cost of fish and chips could rise due to sanctions placed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Imports of Russian whitefish to the UK have been hit with a huge tariff hike of 35 percentage points as a response to the continued attacks in Ukraine, and these costs will inevitably be passed on to consumers.

What is whitefish and how much does the UK buy from Russia?

Whitefish is a term to describe several popular fish species, including cod, whiting, haddock, hake, pollock, and others, which are often used in Britain's fish and chip shops.

Russia controls controls 45% of the global whitefish supply, according to industry authority Seafish and the National Federation of Fish Friers says between 40% to 60% of the whitefish consumed in the UK is purchased from the warring nation.

Ministers say they want to "cause maximum harm to Putin’s war machine while minimising the impact on UK businesses" and industries have been told the government will continue to support them through this period.

But Britain is heavily dependent on whitefish imports: in 2020 the UK landed 47,000 tonnes of cod and haddock but imported 430,000 tonnes of whitefish - a huge amount of it coming from Russia.

Will the price of fish and chips go up in the UK?

The National Federation of Fish Friers told ITV News that UK sanctions on Russian whitefish, on top of America's ban on all imports of the product, mean that the cost of fish in Britain will inevitably go up.

America's ban means it will purchase more fish from countries such as Iceland and Norway, with increased demand likely driving up their prices.

And with less fish available from those countries, UK vendors may be forced to continue purchasing Russian whitefish at a price increased by 35 percentage points.

Andrew Crook, president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, said the group backs UK sanctions on Russian whitefish because it supports "putting as much pressure on Russia as we can".

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But he's urging people to continue buying fish and chips from local shops, despite the price rises, because many will not be able to survive if not.

"We already had a massive problem in the industry and this is just adding another problem on top of that," he said, "we're a massive part of UK culture and it would be a shame to see that go."

Tariffs on Russian whitefish present a "massive threat to the industry", he added, "but we just need to rally around and make sure as many as possible make it through to the other side".

On top of the tariffs, he said the price of fish has recently doubled, energy bills have spiralled and cooking oil is more expensive than ever.

"It's definitely frightening. It's frightening for me that's for sure. I've been in business 22 years, I've never seen anything like this," Mr Crook said on Saturday, even before the tariffs were announced.

"This is definitely the biggest threat to the industry that we've seen.

"There are people who are struggling to explain to their families that they have no money coming in, they're not making a profit."

Mr Crook said he's called by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to “discuss the implications” of the sanctions on Tuesday afternoon.

He's also concerned about the government's planned 20% increase to VAT in April.

A Treasury spokesperson said: We’ve supported hospitality jobs and businesses throughout the pandemic with our £400 billion package of funding and continue to do so.

"We’ve always been clear that the lower rate of VAT was a temporary measure to support businesses as they recover and thanks to the strength of our fantastic vaccine programme which has enabled restrictions to be lifted and the economy to reopen, it’s right that our package of support reflects this."