Carbon dioxide shortages disrupting meat sector
The unfurling carbon dioxide crisis could start proving very costly for the meat industry, with pig farms facing the possibility of culling animals if supplies do not improve.
The shortage of carbon dioxide could impact the food and beverage industry very soon, with the UK meat sector in particular set to feel the effects. That’s according to the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), which has warned of shortages of some products should the crisis continue.
Once their current stocks of the gas run out (estimated to be in less than 14 days) some companies will have to stop taking animals and close production lines, leading to a logjam of animals back to the farms. The BMPA says this scenario is already playing out in the pig industry, which is now facing the imminent prospect of a humane cull on farms.
Companies producing beef and lamb could continue producing retail packs of meat, but without CO2 used in the vacuum packing process, up to five days shelf life could be lost.
“This crisis highlights the fact that 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,” revealed Nick Allen, CEO of the BMPA.
Both the fertiliser producers and, by extension their CO2 customers in the food and drink industry, are reliant on energy and commodity prices, as well as demand for ammonium nitrate staying high. If one of these gets thrown out of balance factories either slow production or, in this extreme case, completely mothball plants. The result is that carbon dioxide supplies dry up.
Due to the crucial nature of CO2 to the food and beverage industry, the BMPA is calling for it to be regulated in a similar way to how the water industry is overseen to prevent public crises.
“This time, we’ve had zero warning of the planned closure of the fertilizer plants in Ince and Stockton-on-Tees and, as a result, it’s plunged the industry into chaos,” added Allen.
“We urgently need the Secretary of State for Business to convene the big CO2 manufacturers to demand that they coordinate to minimise disruption, and provide information to Britain’s businesses so contingency plans can be made.”