BY MATT BUNN
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
IT is one of our best loved traditions, enjoyed by families up and down the country.
■ During the First World War, fish and chips were one of the few foods not to be rationed.
■ It is estimated that there are nearly 11,000 fish and chip shops in the UK.
■ It is rumoured that fish and chips was on Wayne and Colleen Rooney’s wedding menu.
■ One in six adults in the UK have fish and chips once or twice a week.
A trip to the local chip shop for battered cod or a tasty saveloy is as British as a cup of tea or a game of cricket.
But following a disastrous potato harvest last year, traders in Ipswich and Felixstowe claim the old saying “cheap as chips” couldn’t be further from the truth.
It is estimated the price for a bag of potatoes has trebled since the end of 2011 – and it has hit bosses in the fish and chips industry hard.
Bob Singh, the owner of Nacton Road Fish Bar, said: “A lot of our customers know our prices are reasonable, but a lot of them don’t know the value of potatoes. I think they (prices) will go down but chips aren’t cheap anymore. “It is still a tradition and we still have a queue on a Friday night, but it is hitting people hard.”
Mr Singh said at the end of 2011, a 25kg bag of potatoes cost between £4.25 and £5.50 – but now he is forking out nearly £13 for a sack.
He recently took the reluctant decision to raise the price of a bag of chips by 10p to £1.50.
Potato supplier Rob Denison, of O.B. Denison and Son, based in Ipswich, said the problems facing Mr Singh are industry wide.
He added: “It is because of the wet weather we had when the potatoes were planted early last year.
“The crop we are using now, when it was first planted, it was cold and wet and the crops never really got going.
“There was a lot of waste.”
Mr Denison said there are now a lot of potatoes imported from other European countries – many of which also had poor harvests.
Wing Chan, of Starfish in Wherstead Road, has had to raise the price of a bag of chips at his shop by 10p because of the price of potatoes.
“It is only because of the potato prices. If it wasn’t for the problem of lack of potatoes we would be alright,” he said.
“It is the chips that make us the money.”
Steve Phagura, recently took over as the owner of Bounty Fisheries in Felixstowe.
He has not yet increased the price of his chips but he admitted it is an avenue he may need to look into in the future.
He said: “Maybe a few months down the line we will have to raise the price because we can’t keep taking the loss.”
In October last year, the Potato Council said the washout had resulted in crops suffering from stunted growth and the increased price of fertiliser has also had an impact.