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Fast food price inflation in the UK

A third of shops selling fish and chips – a traditional British dish – are at risk of bankruptcy this year because of the ‘price storm’.

At Hooked Fish and Chips in west London, Bally Singh is struggling with the traditional food business as prices for fish, potatoes, cooking oil and even flour have skyrocketed. Without guests, Singh and many other restaurant owners are struggling to find a way out of a recession caused by conflict in Ukraine, Covid-19 and Brexit.

“The price of fish has skyrocketed. The price of oil has gone up. All the ingredients for cooking have gone up,” Singh lists.

Bally Singh with a portion of fish and chips at her shop.  Photo: Reuters

Bally Singh with a portion of fish and chips at her shop. Image: Reuters

A serving of fish and chips at Singh’s shop is currently selling for £9.50, £1.55 more than last year. Singh also said that if the costs were passed on to the buyer, the selling price would have to be close to £11.

“Keeping prices reasonable and competitive with other fast foods is very difficult. Our sales are already falling,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson once promised to rebuild everything after the pandemic. However, prices are driving the economy off course. A third of the country’s fish and chip shops face bankruptcy this year because of price pressures, according to Company Debt. In just one year, the price of cod and cod – two favorite fish in the UK – has increased by 75%. Sunflower oil increased by 60%, and wheat flour by 40%.

Inflation in this country peaked in 40 years in April, at 9%, the highest among G7 countries. This level is expected to increase further. UK consumers are also more pessimistic than people in other European countries. This aroused criticism with the Government and the Central Bank for not controlling prices.

In the southern seaside town of Swanage, clients say inflation makes it difficult for them to make choices.

Paula Williams, 66, sitting on a bench outside Fish Place, said: “I have no problem buying a meal for myself, £11 for one person. But if you go with a group of 5- 6 people, the cost is probably more expensive than going to a restaurant.”

Fish and chips has been a favorite in Britain since its inception 160 years ago. After Brexit, the shops selling this dish began to face difficulties. UK Fisheries, the offshore fishing company, estimates that the amount of Arctic cod the UK is allowed to catch in 2022 will be 40% lower than it was before leaving the EU.

Military tension in Ukraine also increases the price of fuel and electricity, thereby pushing up the cost of fishing and processing fish. The conflict also affects cod and cod stocks, which are native to the Barents Sea, northern Norway and Russia. In March, the British Government put Russian whitefish on the list of items subject to a 35% tax, to punish this country. Sunflower oil, the main agricultural commodity that Britain imports from Ukraine, is also being replaced by other types, such as Australian canola oil.

A spokesman for the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was working closely with the industry, including The National Federation of Fish Friers – The National Federation of Fish Friers NFFF) to mitigate the challenge that restaurants face.

However, the union said stores are facing their biggest crisis ever. NFFF President Andrew Crook said: “Every day I get phone calls from restaurant owners complaining.”

Yael Selfin, Chief Economist at KPMG UK, assessed that fish and chip shops were more affected than large businesses, due to a lack of purchasing power. “We expect consumers and households to rebalance their spending and adjust accordingly,” said Selfin.

To cope with the situation, Singh is looking to cut costs by replacing cod with pollock. However, fuel is still a headache. “Because we have to keep the oil hot, if we don’t, we also lose money,” he said.

In Swanage, 73-year-old Malcolm Petherick, a builder, is also concerned that these events could cause Britain to lose part of its cultural heritage. “When I was a kid, fish and chips were the meals of the poor. But now two servings cost up to £23, which poor people can afford it?” he said.

Duc Minh (according to Reuters)

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