The whitefish tariff will affect all seafood originating in Russia but will not include Russian caught-product that is processed in another country

The delayed 35% tariff on whitefish from Russia and Belarus could lead to different species in fish & chip shops and higher prices, industry leaders have warned.

The tariff came into force on 19 July and will affect seafood imports of Russian origin. However, crucially, Russian-caught product that is processed in another country will not be included.

Additionally, any consignments that have already cleared Russian or Belarusian customs and are en route to the UK will be unaffected. However, there remain concerns that the customs duty will still have a negative effect on the UK seafood industry.

“The UK is not self-sufficient when it comes to domestic landings of whitefish,” said Aoife Martin, director of operations at Seafish, the industry body for the fish sector in the UK.

she added that in 2020 the UK landed around 47,000 tonnes of cod and haddock but imported over 430,000 tonnes of whitefish.

“Russia controls 45% 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,” said Martin.

“Consumers can expect to see different species in their local fish & chip shop. Unfortunately, seafood prices may also have to rise,” she added.

Andrew Crook, head of the National Federation of Fish Friers and one of the leading voices against the tariff, had previously warned this was likely. He added the tariff would join the list of rising costs that was driving shop owners towards illegal activities such as a lowering wages and not paying enough tax, to keep costs down.

The tariff against Russian whitefish was originally proposed in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but was shelved by the government following backlash from the industry.

Russian white fish tariffs ‘imminent’, prompting fears for cod & chips

At the time, Rishi Sunak, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, said the measures were designed to “inflict maximum damage on the Russian economy while minimising the impact on the UK”.

However, following industry feedback, Defra confirmed that the tariff had been put on hold “subject to further work on the specific implications for the sector”.

Concerns about the impending tariff have already caused businesses to change where they source seafood, according to Seafish. Martin said “any businesses still importing seafood direct from Russian will be impacted”.

A couple of months ago The Grocer reported that non-Russian whitefish was already becoming more expensive and in demand as the fish sector swapped suppliers in preparation for the additional tariff.