FISH was the chief driver in helping to push inflation to its highest level in five years last month.
While the price of many commodities increased by around five per cent on August last year, the cost of seafood to the consumer almost doubled, at 9.6 per cent.
High salmon prices were almost certainly to blame, but cod and haddock also rose. This helped to set the August CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation rate at 2.9 per cent and the RPI (Retail Price Index) at 3.9 per cent, fuelling speculation that a rise in interest rates could be on the cards in the next few months.
Observers of the seafood industry need no telling that the price of farmed salmon has shot up over the past 18 months, reaping rich rewards for aquaculture companies – but it is the consumer who has been paying the price when they go shopping in the supermarkets.
Sterling has fallen sharply against the euro and Nordic currencies such as the Icelandic kroner – which is particularly strong – and this makes imported fish in the UK that much dearer.
In fact, Icelandic fish processors, who supply the UK with most of its cod and haddock, have been urging their government to take action to lower the value of the kroner.
Seafood traders say that while they have tried to absorb as much of the increase as possible, they now have no option but to pass on the higher prices to their customers.
One Grimsby fish merchant who did not wish to be named described the current trading situation as ‘tough, very tough’.
M&J Seafoods which publishes a regular price guide said the rise in salmon prices should ease up this month as Norwegian fish farmers and their workers return from summer holiday and resume normal production.
As for white fish, M&J said: ‘The new haddock and cod quotas start in Norway and Iceland in September with large boats going back to sea, but there will be limited supply, driving price increases on both species in the first few weeks.
‘It’s a good idea to use defrost or frozen alternatives during this period. But fisheries should be up to speed by October; we don’t expect any issues with availability or pricing unless the landings are affected by bad weather.’