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UK delays tariffs on Russian whitefish

LONDON — Plans to impose sanctions on Russian whitefish have been postponed by the U.K. government amid fears over the impact on Britain’s seafood industry.

Whitefish was among the Russian exports set to be slapped with a 35 percent tariff by the U.K. in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. 

A U.K. government official said the sanctions have been “delayed while we sort some technicalities,” but stressed that “we are totally committed to them.” Any suggestion the plans had been dropped entirely was “totally untrue,” the official added.

Roughly 30 percent of the U.K.’s whitefish originates from Russia, which controls between 40 to 45 percent of the global supply, according to industry body Seafish.

When the measure was first announced, Britain’s seafood processing industry and struggling fish and chip shops, which rely on the supply of Russian whitefish including cod, said they feared price rises as a result of the sanctions could squeeze their businesses.

Andrew Crook, president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, said: “I think government wants more time to investigate the impact of sanctions on whitefish so have just held off for the time being.

“We of course support any measures they deem suitable to bring the conflict to a speedier conclusion.”

The whitefish sanctions were announced on March 15. However, unlike other Russian products targeted including cereal, cement and fertilizer, the tariffs were not imposed on whitefish when they came into force on March 24, according to Seafish, a public body that supports the U.K.’s seafood industry.

“This specific tariff change has been delayed to allow for further work by government to understand the specific implications of this change for the seafood sector,” a spokesperson said.

“We will continue to work with government and seafood businesses to help ensure there is a clear understanding of the complexities around seafood trade and processing to ensure these measures have maximum impact on Russia while taking care that U.K. businesses are not penalized unnecessarily. 

“We will also continue to provide advice and guidance to businesses to help them to adapt to these changes.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the government is imposing the “most punishing sanctions ever on Russia following its unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

“We intend to introduce a 35 percent tariff on imports of whitefish from Russia, subject to further work on the specific implications for the sector,” the spokesperson said. 

“We continue to speak with the industry body, the National Federation of Fish Friers, and other sector representatives about potential pressures as they navigate any changes.”

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