Brexit masala: Condiments turn costlier in UK, drive up food prices

The UK government’s Trade Facilitation Expert Panel said peanuts, cashews, black pepper and key spices have been hit by a price hike. (File/ Representational image)

The June 23 Brexit vote and the falling value of pound have severely hit Indian restaurants and Indian food manufacturers in UK who import spices and other ingredients from abroad, forcing them to raise prices in the 4 billion-pound “curry industry”.

Already hit by the inability to recruit chefs from the Indian subcontinent due to tough visa restrictions, the falling pound has come as a “double whammy”, restaurant owners and food manufacturers told Hindustan Times on Friday.

There is growing despair among restaurant owners over the fact that promises made before the EU referendum — that Brexit would “save our curry houses” by allowing recruitment of chefs from the Indian subcontinent — are not on the agenda of the Theresa May government.

“Everything has gone up. Milk, eggs, spices, meat, you name it. We are getting hammered. How do we cope and who do we keep charging this to? Minimum wage is up, taxes are up. The government just doesn’t care about small businesses,” celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwal,a who owns popular restaurants in London, said.

Mukesh Alora, owner of Delhi Live in Romford, east London, said business was under intense pressure since wholesalers had raised prices of imported goods, but he was trying to avoid passing the hike on to customers.

“Labour continues to be a major problem, we can’t afford to recruit chefs under the current criteria, and now this falling pound. Over 90 per cent of our purchases are based on goods imported, which have gone up in recent weeks,” he said.

Leicester-based Uday Dholakia, chairman of the UK government’s Trade Facilitation Expert Panel, said the hike was mainly in prices of ingredients such as peanuts, cashews, black pepper and key spices.

“The double whammy of the falling value of sterling of some 18-20% and added to this the hike in raw material has meant an average increase on some 40% on consumables. This in turn has triggered a levelling of in growth, rise in price of borrowing working capital and rise in inflation,” he said.

“All the leading manufacturers in the UK have a dilemma, in that they are locked into the pre-Christmas pricing with multiples and cannot pass the increase onto consumers, nor can they discriminate by hiking prices in independent outlets.”

Associated British Foods, the foods major that owns Patak’s, a popular curry pastes, pickles and sauces brand, said prices will rise since some goods such as spices for its pickles and sauces had to be bought abroad and the pressure for price inflation was increasing.

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