FISH and chips are widely regarded as the national dish of the United Kingdom, enjoyed on trips to the seaside as hungry gulls flutter overhead, as well as on those evenings when you just can’t be bothered slaving over a hot stove. But a warning has been issued over the future of the popular fare.
A good old fish supper…
…often hits the spot, but all is not well in the land of the fish and chip shop as the National Federation of Fish Friers warn the industry is facing a real and rising threat.
It’s such a historic dish?
The hot dish of fried fish in crispy batter, with chips on the side, originated in England, with fish and chip shops first popping up in the UK in the 1800s – Charles Dickens referred to a “fried fish warehouse” in his novel, Oliver Twist’, back in 1838. By the early years of the 20th century, there were more than 25,000 chip shops in the UK.
Who put the two together?
Fried fish was introduced to Britain in the 16th century by Jews, while chips seem to have come from Belgium or France in the 17th century, although the exact moment of the two being brought together in a historic union is uncertain, with Lancashire and London staking a claim to being behind the magical moment.
The meal became a staple of the British diet. So much so that fish and chips were one of the few foods never rationed during World War II, with Sir Winston Churchill referring to them as “the good companions”. The government believed that safeguarding this comfort meal during a time of distress was vital to keeping morale up.
Today, fish and chips remain a staple in the modern English diet, with British consumers eating an estimated 382 million meals from fish and chip shops every year, including 167 million of purely fish and chips.
The National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) has said that since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, makers of the great British dish have had to shut down, hike prices or change their menus as the UK is heavily dependent on seafood from Russia – a world leader in exports of cod, as well as potato fertiliser used to make chips. Meanwhile, Ukraine and Russia account for about 60 per cent of world production of sunflower oil.
What does this mean?
In 2020, Britain imported a third of all whitefish into the UK at a cost of £200 million, but with sanctions and supply disruptions, prices are soaring as products prove harder to come by. Andrew Crook, president of the NFFF, said: “We need action [from ministers] before long-term damage is done that can’t be repaired. We aren’t after handouts. We are a proud industry. But a lot of businesses will go to the wall and we need a long-term strategy to see us through”