Richard Walker said the crisis, compounded by the HGV driver shortage, could become dire within weeks. He said: “This is no longer about whether or not Christmas will be OK, it’s about keeping the wheels turning and the lights on so we can actually get to Christmas. “This could become a problem over the coming days and weeks, so this is not an issue that’s months away.” Iceland, he said, was building up stocks on items like frozen meat.
He added: “I think there will be problems before Christmas. No one has a problem just at the moment but it could become a problem over the coming days and weeks. It is not an issue that is months away.”
Britain is facing a severe shortage of CO2, which is used to slaughter farm animals humanely. Two fertiliser plants have shut because of the rising cost of gas, resulting in a knock on effect on the meat industry which uses the CO2 produced by the factories.
The chairman of the National Pig Association warned farmers could be forced to “slaughter their own animals” because of a lack of space and feed. Rob Mutimer said: “If the situation doesn’t change, it’s going to spiral completely out of control.”
Nick Allen, of the British Meat Processors Association, said: “We’re two weeks away from seeing some real impacts on the shelves. On the poultry side we’re hearing there are even tighter supplies so we might see poultry disappearing even sooner. We’re hoping and praying the Government can negotiate with these plants to reopen. But even then, it’ll take about three days to restart.”