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Fears are growing that the UK’s carbon dioxide shortage will soon lead to empty shelves, as food producers urge the government to step in and provide support.
Ian wright, CEO of Food and Beverage Federation, told the BBC’s Today program this morning that it was a “real crisis”, explaining that supply chains are under unprecedented pressure.
We have been saying for several weeks that the just-in-time system that underpins both our supermarkets and our hospitality industry is the most strained in 40 years.
Poultry producers warn production will seriously erode by the end of this week, says Wright, and so does pork production – both sectors need CO2 stunning animals intended for slaughter.
Baked goods and meat wrappers are probably only a week late, he predicts.
We probably have about 10 days before consumers, buyers, and diners notice these products are unavailable.
Wright adds that ministers, especially those in DEFRA, are taking the problem very seriously … he hopes, but is not convinced, that industry and government can work together on a solution.
He wrote to the Secretary of Food and Rural Affairs, Georges eustice, urging action.
In a letter seen by the Guardian, Wright says:
“Across the industry, there is a common view that the situation is getting worse, with little prospect of additional CO2 supply unless the UK government intervenes.
The shortage of carbon dioxide is caused by the gas crisis, as CO2 is a byproduct of fertilizer production.
Soaring natural gas prices forced US fertilizer maker CF Industries to shut down production at its factories in Billingham in Teesside and Ince in Cheshire last week, creating disruptions in supply chains.
The FDF says the government must take three steps to support the food industry:
- Subsidize the small number of fertilizer factories which are the main sources of CO2 that the food and beverage industry needs
- Help the industry find alternative sources of materials for stunning animals and for food packaging.
- Solve labor shortages, which means the industry is so sensitive to these shortages.
Meat producers are also warning that supplies could be cut off soon. Cranswick, which makes fresh pork products and gourmet sausages, bacon, ham and cold meats, says the UK risks a “major crisis in the food industry”.
Adam sofa, Cranswick CEO, said the government must act immediately to avoid shortages:
The sector has asked for support to alleviate the labor crisis, and now C02 shortages could effectively halt production along the supply chain.
âThe industry is already at the tipping point ahead of the demanding Christmas season.
We have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep food on the shelves, but there is a real risk of food shortages across the country if the government does not act immediately to address these issues. “
As the energy crisis escalated yesterday, the government insisted the UK was “very resilient”, with “no way the lights would go out”.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, promised:
“There will be no three-day work weeks or going back to the 1970s.
Such thinking is alarmist, unnecessary and completely wrong. ”
But No 10 was warned that hundreds of thousands of Britons are facing a “very, very difficult” winter due to rising household costs, fears of a three-day week for factories and new gaps in supermarket shelves.
And with the Iceland supermarket chain warning that UK food supplies could be at risk long before Christmas unless carbon dioxide supplies are restored, the pressure is mounting …
We also get the of the OECD assessment of the global economy, a health check of UK factories in the CBI, and the latest US housing data – as the Federal Reserve begins its two-day monetary policy meeting.
After heavy falls yesterday, European markets opened higher as investors shed Monday’s gloom after the worst session in months.
- 7am BST: UK public finances for August
- 8:30 a.m. BST: Swedish Riksbank’s decision on interest rates
- 10 a.m. BST: OECD publishes its Interim Economic Outlook
- 11am BST: CBI industrial trends survey in UK factories
- 1.30 m BST: building permits and starts in the United States for August