Record prices for oil and energy are threatening the future of UK fish and chip shops with up to half expected to go out of business, according to industry sources quoted in a Daily Mail report.
With oil prices surging following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, the chip shop businesses had also been hit by the fact that most of the sunflower oil used in deep fat fryers was produced in Russia and Ukraine, the 21 March report said.
Russia and Ukraine together account for more than 50% of global sunflowerseed production and, with sunflower oil supply set to be tight this year, the price of alternative cooking oils was also expected to rise rapidly, the Daily Mail wrote.
Meanwhile, the UK government had announced a 35% tariff on Russian fish imports in March, the report said, and with around 30%-40% of fish sold in chip shops imported from Russia, prices looked set to rise further.
“If we lose that there will be a big problem because there is no Plan B,” National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) president Andrew Crook said.
The NFFF had been lobbying the UK Treasury for support, the report said, and if a planned rise in VAT went ahead this month [April] from 12.5% to 20%, the prices would be put under more pressure.
Despite increasing the price of fish and chips at his own business, a VAT increase would make his business “borderline profitable”, Crook said.
The UK has around 10,000 chip shops and Crook said he believed “if the worst happens half of them may go”.
Crook had previously feared 3,000 businesses would close over the next five years but said ‘they are likely to go sooner now’.
It was the worst crisis in the industry’s history, according to Crook, and coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic had “worn people down”.