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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
David Laister

Russian seafood sanctions hit with Grimsby cluster chiefs warning of potential to push prices up

A warning over further price inflation on seafood has been sounded as the 35 per cent tariff on Russian imports has finally been introduced.

First announced in March as part of a round of sanctions aimed at closing economic lines into Putin’s war chest as the invasion of Ukraine took hold, it was paused to allow industry and government to fully understand the implications.

Fish processed in another country will not count towards the measure, with any currently in transit not affected by this week’s imposition.

Read more: Seafood sector relief as new border control post emerges in Grimsby amid government Brexit delay

Grimsby is the UK’s seafood gateway to the retail market, with more than 60 per cent of the fish sold handled in the cluster. Whitefish is primarily sourced from Iceland, The Faroes and Norway, with regular sailings into the Humber, and overland deliveries.

Town-headquartered industry authority, Seafish, has outlineed what it sees as the implications. Director of operations, Aoife Martin, said: “As the tariff sanction has been long signposted, many seafood businesses have already been looking at alternative options, but any businesses still importing seafood direct from Russian will be impacted.

“The UK is not self-sufficient when it comes to domestic landings of whitefish. In 2020 we landed about 47,000 tonnes of cod and haddock but imported over 430,000 tonnes of whitefish. Russia controls 45 per cent of the global whitefish supply so removing this fish from our seafood supply chain will have impacts as businesses try to find alternative sources of supply. Consumers can expect to see different species in their local fish and chip shop. Unfortunately seafood prices may also have to rise.”

For the Grimsby cluster there have been estimates of Russian seafood being around the 10 per cent mark - with the processing caveat from the Treasury likely to drive that down further.

Simon Dwyer. (Tom Haga)

Simon Dwyer heads up the Grimsby cluster’s support organisation, Seafood Grimsby and Humber Alliance, as secretariat to the Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association.

He said: “It is not a major deal for the processing sector here, we don’t process a lot of Russian fish in Grimsby - but it is another layer to the cake of inflation.

“We have to monitor whether or not it will have an impact on white fish supplies in terms of cost.

That is a cake that has energy, logistics, and packaging all impacted, and it goes on. There is potential there, and we have to manage it the best we can.

“For us, nothing changes, we still want more people to eat more fish more often - something the whole industry is working together towards. It becomes challenging for everyone when the prices go up - and that includes the consumer - but as a protein we are not on our own.

“Evidence out there is showing fresh fish prices are stable and on a par with what we are used to, we just have to monitor this.”

Industry's Ukrainian donation

The sanctions come as local businesses have sent an aid package of seafood to Ukraine.

Several organisations united in the gesture, with Hilton Seafoods donating fish cakes and ACS&T handling the load out.

Wedge Fish and a private local businessman paid for the transport with the port health authority waiving export paperwork fees and Franklin College also contributing with pallet labelling.

The text translates to ‘To the Ukraine from England’.

Read next:

Seafood cluster's central role in government's food strategy celebrated

Morrisons could look to bring investors to Grimsby's Europarc with seafood site sale and leaseback

Hilton appoints CEO of Dutch buy-out as new seafood managing director

Grimsby seafood firm bought out by European operator backed by Japanese giant

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