Saturday 18 September 2021 2:20 pm

Rising gas prices endanger food supplies

Food production could be hit by major disruption after rocketing energy prices have threatened to create a shortage of carbon dioxide needed for farming.

Two fertiliser plants in the country have been temporarily shut down as gas prices have climbed.

Firms could run out of carbon dioxide in less than two weeks, with some being forced to stop taking animals and close production lines, the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA).

Business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng said he would meet with energy supplier bosses on Saturday over concerns about the rise in prices.

“Britain has a diverse range of gas supply sources, with sufficient capacity to more than meet demand. We do not expect supply emergencies this winter,” the minister said.

Businesses said the shutdowns were the last thing they needed, requiring carbon dioxide to stun animals, preserve packaged meat and produce fizzy drinks. 

Nick Allen, chief executive of the BMPA, said: “We’ve had zero warning of the planned closure of the fertiliser plants and, as a result, it’s plunged the industry into chaos. 

“The British food supply chain is at the mercy of a small number of major fertiliser producers (four or five companies) spread across northern Europe. We rely on a by-product from their production process to keep Britain’s food chain moving.”

Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association, said for many pig farmers this would be “the final straw.”

She added: “This is the absolute last thing pig farmers need right now. They are already having to accommodate and feed more pigs on farms than they have the space for due to reduced throughput of abattoirs caused by the existing labour shortages.”