Carbon dioxide shortage may cancel Christmas, warns poultry supplier

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Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group, says this, combined with a lack of workers, will affect the supply of turkeys. However, following talks with energy chiefs yesterday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng insisted he was “reassured security of supply was not a cause for immediate concern”.

The food packaging industry warned of a shortage of meat at supermarkets after a hike in gas prices led to the closure of two fertiliser plants and a shortage of CO2.

Mr Boparan said: “The supply of Bernard Matthews turkeys this Christmas was already compromised as I need to find 1,000 extra workers to process supplies. Now with no CO2 supply, Christmas will be cancelled.

“The issue is a massive body blow and puts us at breaking point, it really does ‑ that’s poultry, beef, pork, as well as the wider food industry.

“Without CO2, the bottom line is there is less throughput and with our sector already compromised by lack of labour, this potentially tips us over the edge.”

He added: “This is clearly a national security issue and unlike the labour supply crisis, where the Government response to our sector has been disappointing, it has to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

“It really beggars belief when such a key infrastructure operation can arbitrarily decide to switch off the taps because of price inflation. It is irresponsible and catastrophic for our sector.” 

The Government is being urged by meat producers to protect the food supply chain after the sharp rise in gas prices resulted in a cut in the supply of CO2 to the industry.

Two large fertiliser plants in Teesside and Cheshire, which produce carbon dioxide as a by-product, shut as a result of the hike.

But Mr Kwarteng pledged the Government will protect consumers from astronomical energy prices after his talks on a global gas shortage.

Meetings were held with senior executives from Ofgem, Centrica, National Grid, Energy UK, Octopus, Ovo, SSE, EDF, ScottishPower, Shell Energy, E.ON, Bulb and SGN.

Afterwards he said: “The UK benefits from having a diverse range of gas supply sources, with sufficient capacity to more than meet demand. The UK’s gas system continues to operate reliably and we do not expect supply emergencies this winter.”

On home bills, he added: “Protecting customers during a time of heightened global gas prices is an absolute priority.

“The Energy Price Cap exists to protect millions of customers.”

He added: “Some energy companies are facing pressure. Ofgem has robust measures in place to ensure customers do not need to worry, their needs are met, and their gas and electricity supply will continue uninterrupted if a supplier fails.”

He pointed out the majority of gas used in the UK was domestically produced unlike countries like Germany, which rely on Russian supplies. 

He added: “However, our exposure to volatile global gas prices underscores the importance of our plan to build a strong, home-grown renewable energy sector to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.”

Mr Kwarteng is set to meet the regulator Ofgem this morning and hold another round-table discussion with the energy industry later.

British Meat Processors Association chief executive Nick Allen said CO2 was essential to both the humane slaughter of livestock and extending the shelf life of products.

He said: “If we haven’t got CO2 for packaging, that reduces the shelf life of products at a time when we are really struggling because of transport problems. We really need the Government to step in now.”

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