MAJOR food producers warned last night of meat running out in two weeks — as Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was locked in crisis talks with energy bosses.
High-level discussions took place in Whitehall as soaring gas prices threatened a huge knock-on effect for the production and supply of food.
Major food producers warned last night of meat running out in two weeks[/caption]
One of the country’s biggest meat firms said Christmas dinners could be off. And Ocado said it was unable to deliver frozen goods due to a shortage of dry ice produced by carbon dioxide (CO2).
A shutdown of two fertiliser plants in the north of England — which produces CO2 as a by-product — has triggered big issues in meat supply and other foods. The factories were forced to close due to the high gas prices after providing 60 per cent of domestic production of commercial CO2.
The gas is used to stun animals before slaughter and in the packaging of foods to increase shelf life.
British Meat Processors Association boss Nick Allen warned businesses in the industry can carry on for less than two weeks before CO2 stocks run out and no meat will be available. He said: “Everyone is outraged these fertiliser plants can shut down without warning and take something so essential to the supply chain off-stream just like that.”
The country’s biggest poultry supplier even claimed last night that Christmas dinners could be “cancelled” due to the shortage.
Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group, says the lack of gas combined with a shortage of workers will massively hit supply. He said: “The supply of Bernard Matthews turkeys this Christmas was already compromised as I need to find 1,000 extra workers to process supplies. Now, with no CO2 supply, Christmas will be cancelled.”
One meat industry figure said getting hold of CO2 was “hand to mouth” and that the public should expect to see price rises in shops in the coming weeks and months.
Mr Kwarteng held crisis meetings yesterday with energy bosses including Centrica and EDF where the “impact” of high global prices was discussed but there were no current supply concerns. Industry figures said there was already a “perfect storm” over the Christmas run-up and a shortage of haulage drivers.
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Meanwhile, there were fears last night that four smaller energy companies could go bust next week with larger companies ready to step in and take on a million customers.
And popular online comparison site Compare The Market has suspended offering energy quotes due to a lack of tariffs on the market.
Last night, the Environment Department said: “We have had extensive meetings with representatives from the meat production and processing sectors, and are continuing those conversations this weekend.”
Q&A: WHY HAVE ENERGY PRICES SOARED?
WHY have prices soared?
Factors include high global demand and reduced supply, maintenance problems and lower levels of solar and wind power.
How does this affect food and drink supplies?
Two major factories producing carbon dioxide have closed. It is used for stunning animals before slaughter, in meat packaging and is vital for fizzy drinks and beer.
Will Britain soon run out of gas?
The Government insists it has a diverse range of gas supply sources that can meet demand.
Will home prices rise?
Experts say those on variable tariffs may see bills go up, with fewer cheaper rates available.