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British food industry demands government action over CO2 shortage

Sat, 18th Sep 2021 11:49

By Kate Holton

LONDON, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Britain's food industry called
on the government to subsidise carbon dioxide (CO2) production
during a spike in gas prices or risk the collapse of the
country's meat industries.

A surge in gas prices has forced two British fertiliser
plants to shut, stripping food producers of the CO2 by-product
that is used to stun animals before slaughter and vacuum pack
food to prolong its shelf life.

The shortage of CO2, which is also used to put the fizz into
beer, cider and soft drinks, comes at a terrible time for the
food industry, which is already facing an acute shortage of
truck drivers and the impact of Brexit and COVID-19.

Nick Allen of the British Meat Processors Association said
on Saturday that the pig sector was two weeks away from hitting
the buffers, while the British Poultry Council said its members
were on a "knife-edge" as suppliers could only guarantee
deliveries up to 24-hours in advance.

Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng was due to meet the heads
of the UK's largest energy suppliers and operators on Saturday
to discuss the situation. He said he did not expect supply
emergencies this year due to a diverse range of sources.

However, the food industry said more support was needed.

"Doing nothing is not an option," Allen told Reuters, adding
that given the exceptional circumstances, the government needed
to either subsidise the power supply to maintain fertiliser
production, or source CO2 from elsewhere.

British Poultry Council head Richard Griffiths said he was
working with the government to assess stock levels and implement
contingency plans, but warned that food supply disruption could
become a national security issue.

Were slaughterhouses to run out of CO2, pigs and chickens
would be left on farms, creating additional animal welfare, food
supply and food waste issues, he said, adding: "We hope this can
be avoided through swift government action."

A spokesperson said the government was in close contact with
the food and farming industries to help them manage.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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