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Britain’s food industry urges government to subsidise carbon-dioxide production

Surge in gas prices has forced two British fertiliser plants to shut

The head of the British Poultry Council,  Richard Griffiths, has warned that food supply disruption could become a national security issue. Photograph: Getty Images

The head of the British Poultry Council, Richard Griffiths, has warned that food supply disruption could become a national security issue. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The British government has struck a deal with US company CF Industries, which supplies 60 per cent of Britain’s carbon dioxide (CO2). 

The deal will allow CF Industries to keep its two fertiliser plants open - a surge in gas prices had forced them to stop work. 

The company produces C02 as a by-product of its main product, fertiliser.

Food producers use CO2 to vacuum pack food to prolong its shelf life, to stun pigs and chickens before slaughter and to keep food fresh in transport. 

The deal with CF industries will see the government cover the full operating costs of its Teeside plant for three weeks while C02 market adapts to global prices. 

As part of the deal the food industry will have to pay five times more for CO2.

The food industry has 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.

The shortage of CO2, which is also used to put the fizz into beer, cider and soft drinks, comes at a bad 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 recently that the pig sector was close to 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. 

“Doing nothing is not an option,” Allen told Reuters. 

He added 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 CO2 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. – Reuters