Andrew Cook of the National Federation of Fish Friers says the price hike is due to a huge rise in costs – and fears that several of the takeaways which have become such a familiar feature of our streets for so long might not survive.
The Federation is seeking talks with the Government on possible revisions to the VAT which the business has faced for the last 40 years – and is deeply concerned that the situation will get even worse following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the introduction of sanctions.
“Sixty per cent of the cod that comes into this country comes from Russia,” he said.
“It’s already a premium product, which you’ll see in the supermarkets in priced higher than steak.
“But all the costs are going up and I fear the industry as we know it will be badly affected.
“Certainly, the increased costs of everything might be too much for some of the smaller shops and we might be left with chains and other which perhaps try and keep their overheads low by perhaps compromising rather on quality.
“We have always worked on very narrow margins but now the increases are so severe it is going to be impossible for businesses to absorb.
“We are in unprecedented times where we are seeing high levels of inflation and food inflation is even higher.
“Most of the supplies we use in the fish and chip industry have increased drastically in price and we are expecting this to continue for some considerable time.
“Other products are simply not available, and we have already seen suppliers move away from the sector.”
Andrew, who runs the Skipper’s chippy at Euxton near Chorley and whose family has been in the business in Lancashire for 40 years, says that since October last year the price of cod has risen by 75 per cent while the price of haddock has gone up by 85 per cent – and even batter and mushy peas are costing more.
“We want to sit down with the Government and find the best way forward,” he said.
“We were in touch with them throughout the pandemic about how we kept going and kept our staff safe, but we need help now.
“Our industry has always been about quality and value for money.
“The worry is that customers might be put off by the higher prices but it’s not profiteering, it’s surviving.”
Alastair Horobin, who owns the Seniors chain, with eight outlets on the Fylde coast, said: “It’s certainly a very challenging time ahead for all hospitality and my beloved fish and chip industry is in for a rocky road.
“Fish prices soaring, supply poor, frying oil hitting record highs, mushy peas doubled, VAT rising to 20 per cent, utility bills off the charts, staff wages, packaging, petrol to fill up delivery cars and hikes to other taxes make April onwards a very uncertain time.
“But I’m confident the industry will survive this. Fish and chips is our national dish; it’s cherished was never rationed in the war and I believe it’s always going to be enjoyed by all.
“Its a natural product that’s tasty and still so much better value that comparable meals, which as lasagne chips £15 or a Chinese or Indian takeaways with rice and a side dish.
“My fellow friers need to be inventive and confident in our future so portion control, great value for money offers and transparency in cost related challenges I see as key.”
John Clarkson, who has run the Mr Eaters takeaway in Ribbleton, Preston for more than 30 years, is also fearful that some of the smaller fish and chip shops might not survive the current financial circumstances, but feels that diversification is key.
“Yes, the cost of fish is rising along with so many other considerations which are a vital part of the business but we have always been great believers in offering big choice for the customers – pies, sausages and so much more – and we are confident the customers will keep coming.
“But we’re in a good spot on a busy road - perhaps it might be a different story for the shops in less obvious locations and I certainly worry for them.”