Thousands of British fish and chips stores could close during the year

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Fish-and-chips in the UK are under heavy pressure as prices for basic ingredients, including cod and cooking oil, are rising as a result of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. As many as one-third of the country’s approximately 10,000 fish restaurants with chips could close in the next nine months, said Andrew Crook, president of the National Deep Fryers Federation. The crisis is the worst he has seen, he told CNN Business. The trading group represents 1,200 businesses engaged in fish and chips, and has been operating for over a century. Crook, who owns his own store, said prices began to rise by the end of last year, but the cost of basic ingredients has jumped since late February, when Russia invaded Ukraine. “Overall, everything went up,” Crook said. Businesses in various industries are struggling with high price increases as supply chains escalate. because of the war in Ukraine. But British fish and chips stores, which traditionally operate with very narrow incomes, are under particular pressure due to the industry’s dependence on Russian imports. Up to 40% of cod and haddock come from Russian waters, and about half of sunflower oil is imported from Ukraine, Crook said. According to Crook, businesses pay for sunflower oil about 83% more than in early March. Palm oil, a common alternative, has doubled in price. Indonesia, the world’s largest exporter of palm oil, began restricting exports last month to help maintain domestic supplies. To the pain are added electricity bills that are teary-eyed, and rising fertilizer prices needed to grow potatoes. Fish with chips is one of the British unofficial national dishes. The first stores opened in the 1860s and spread rapidly as the country industrialized, helping to feed factory workers, according to the trade group. During World War II, when the government standardized other staple foods such as tea, butter, meat, fish and chips were liberated, so important was the dish for the working class. Customers expect their fish and chips to be cheap, Crook said. A year ago, the average price for regular cod and chips was about £ 7, Crook said. Now, according to his estimates, it is about 8.50 pounds – an increase of 21%. “We risk excluding ourselves from the market … we’re trying to keep growth as low as possible,” Crook said. Some have already turned away. “I lost some regular customers who came every Friday,” he added. Fears that the UK government will impose tough import tariffs on Russian white fish have prompted businesses to stockpile alternatives, further deceiving the rising price of Icelandic and Norwegian fish that Crook buys. The price of Icelandic cod is now £ 270 ($ 331), compared to £ 140 ($ 176) this time last year, Crook said. Businesses like Crook face the sad challenge of selling fish and chips to customers who have faced the worst cost of living crisis in decades. Annual consumer price inflation in March reached 7% – the highest level in 30 years, and could reach 10% later this year, according to the Bank of England. More than half a million small businesses in the UK – about one in 10 – plan to close, cut or sell next year as many struggle for funding, according to a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses. For Crook, the fate of his shop is personal. “It’s more than just work. For many of us, they’ve taken up the family business,” he said. “I’m second generation in business – and you don’t want it to fail on your watch.”

The UK’s fish shops are under severe pressure as prices for basic ingredients – including cod and cooking oil – rise as a result of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

In the next nine months, about one-third of the country’s approximately 10,000 fish restaurants could close, said Andrew Crook, president of the National Deep Frying Federation. The crisis is the worst thing he has seen, he told CNN Business.

The trading group represents 1,200 fish and chips businesses and has been operating for over a century.

Crook, who owns his own store, said prices began to rise late last year, but the cost of basic ingredients has risen since late February, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

“All in all, everything went up,” Crook said.

Businesses in various industries are struggling with high price increases as the war in Ukraine has worsened supply chains. But British fish and chips stores, which traditionally operate with very narrow incomes, are under particular pressure due to the industry’s dependence on Russian imports.

Up to 40% of cod and haddock come from Russian waters, and about half of sunflower oil is imported from Ukraine, Crook said.

According to Crook, businesses pay for sunflower oil about 83% more than in early March. Palm oil, a common alternative, has doubled in price. Indonesia, the world’s largest exporter of palm oil, began restricting exports last month to help maintain domestic supplies.

Tears are added by tearful electricity bills and high prices for fertilizers needed to grow potatoes.

Fish with chips is one of the unofficial national dishes of Great Britain. The first stores opened in the 1860s and spread rapidly as the country industrialized, helping to feed factory workers, according to the trade group. During World War II, because the government standardized other foods such as tea, butter, meat, fish and chips were liberated, so important was the dish for the working class.

Customers expect their fish and chips to be cheap, Crook said. A year ago, the average price for regular cod and chips was about £ 7, Crook said. Now, according to his estimates, it is about 8.50 pounds – an increase of 21%.

“We risk withdrawing ourselves from the market … we’re trying to keep growth as low as possible,” Crook said. Some have already turned away.

“I lost some regular customers who came every Friday,” he added.

Fears that the UK government will impose tough import tariffs on Russian white fish have prompted businesses to stock up on alternatives, further raising the price of Icelandic and Norwegian fish that Crook buys.

The cost of an Icelandic cod case is now £ 270 ($ 331), up from £ 140 ($ 176) this time last year, Crook said.

Companies like Crook’s face the daunting task of selling fish and chips to customers facing the worst cost of living crisis in decades. According to the Bank of England, annual consumer price inflation in March reached 7% – the highest level in 30 years, and could reach 10% later this year.

More than half a million small businesses in the UK – about one in ten – plan to close, cut or sell next year, as many are struggling to get funding, according to a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses.

For Crook, the fate of his store is personal.

“It’s more than just work. For many of us, we’ve started a family business,” he said. “I’m second generation in business – and you don’t want it to fail on your watch.”

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