The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has confirmed a 35% tariff will be imposed on imports of Russian whitefish.
The tariff was due to come into play on March 24th when the UK government applied sanctions to hundreds of Russian exports following its invasion of Ukraine. However, it was postponed while the impact on Britain's seafood industry was considered.
With the war still ongoing, the government has decided to step up its action and a 35% tariff will now apply to any fish that has not cleared Russian or Belarusian customs before 19th July.
The decision was taken at a round table meeting held today with the Minister of State for DEFRA along with members of the seafood sector, BEIS and HMRC. Also in attendance was Andrew Crook, president of The NFFF, who said the decision would have dramatic consequences for the industry, with approximately 30-40% of UK fish and chip shops using Russian fish.
“Unfortunately, the Government has decided to pull that lever and now we have to deal with it. It’s not great news for us but we knew it was a possibility.”
“There’s still a little bit of a grey area when talking about countries of origin because if it’s moved to a different country and processed is it still going to be counted as Russian fish? If they are going to ignore that and apply it to direct imports it’s going to have a huge effect on the industry, about 30-40% of the fish and chip industry uses Russian fish. It is a significant amount of fish.
“Demand for seafood across the board is down due to the high prices, so that will help mitigate some of the price increase a little bit and maybe the Russians will absorb some of it, but that’s yet to be seen.”
From today's roundtable, the government has agreed to hold a separate meeting with representatives from the fish and chip industry to discuss the pressures the sector is facing.
Andrew adds: “The government does understand what impact this is going to have on our sector. I was first to speak to the Minister and I laid it out that there is a big risk to independent businesses. I pointed out that while you might see all the big brands expanding, it's because they have the borrowing power, the buying power and the marketing power to keep growing, whereas independent businesses don’t have that and we are definitely feeling the brunt of everything going on at the moment anyway.
“We need the government to listen to our calls because there are businesses out there that won’t survive this.
"The industry will get through it, we have a great product, a great network and a lot of support. But there are a lot of businesses that will have to change what they are doing if they are to survive.”