CO2 crisis may affect farmers directly in less than 11 days

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has warned that gas stocks at processors could run out in less than 11 days, leading some companies to close production lines and send animals back to the farm.

The gas in question, carbon dioxide (CO2), is used to stun animals before slaughter. The UK has been edging towards a CO2 shortage for weeks, due to a rise in prices causing the closure of multiple fertiliser plants.

According to BPMA, when manufacturers and businesses run out of their current CO2 supplies, some will have no choice but to stop taking animals and close production lines, leading to a ‘logjam’ of animals back to the farms.

CO2 crisis

Nick Allen, CEO of BMPA said: “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.”

In an effort to tackle the situation, BMPA is lobbying the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, to help prop up UK CO2 production short-term.

“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,” said 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.”

The retail chain

CO2 is also used to vacuum pack food products – especially meats – by reducing the amount of oxygen inside a sealed pack and thus helping to preserve what’s inside.

According to the BPMA, some companies producing beef and lamb have stocks so low that up to five days’ shelf life could be lost through the packaging process.

This, coupled with the ongoing HGV driver shortage, could pose additional problems for retailers.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said:

The Government must urgently ensure adequate supplies of CO2 for UK food producers. Disruption to CO2 supplies could not come at a worse time, with the shortfall of 90,000 HGV drivers already putting severe pressure on food production and distribution.

“Retailers are working with their suppliers to manage this issue as best they can, but it is vital that Government takes immediate action to prioritise key suppliers and avoid significant disruption to food supplies.”