CURRY could be off the menu because of immigration restrictions and rising rice prices, the food industry warned today.
Restrictions on immigration from Bangladesh and soaring world market prices could prevent Britons eating their favourite dish.
And curry restaurant owners in Huddersfield admit things were getting worse.
Alex Waugh, director of the Rice Association, said prices were up 60% year on year and the price of basmati rice, one of the most popular varieties in the UK, had almost doubled.
Big producers like India and China had restricted their exports, along with Vietnam and Egypt, and there were now “rapidly declining stocks” in the world.
This will feed into the price British consumers pay for rice at shops and in restaurants.
Meanwhile, the shortage of workers in curry house kitchens has been caused by a new points-based system for lower skilled workers introduced by the Border and Immigration Agency.
At a meeting in London on Monday night, Keith Best, chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, discussed ways in which the curry industry can put the case to the Government that it is in serious trouble because of the restrictions.
Mr Best said the Government had mistakenly assumed vacancies in the curry industry would be filled by Eastern Europeans.
But he said they have “no cultural sensitivity towards or understanding of the curry industry”.
Nurul Islam, of Tamanna’s Brasserie, Birchencliffe, says he is struggling to find staff for his Bengali-run business.
Mr Islam says: “I’m a genuine business and the Government is not listening.
“Someone from Bangladesh has the language and the experience and if we tell them to do something, they do it straight away.
“It would take two or three years to teach a non-Bengali person how to cook that way.
“For the amount of time it would take to train a non-Bengali person, you could do it yourself. And who would a customer rather have Bengali food made by?”
Mr Islam, who employs eight staff from Bangladesh, adds the wholesale cost of food is eating into his profits.
He says: “Everything has gone up – oil, flour and rice but you can’t put the prices up because people will stop coming.
“If prices are going up and up, it’s worrying.”