United Kingdom

Meat supplies could run out in two weeks and Christmas dinner is under threat, gas suppliers warn

Meat producers have warned Britain could be facing a shortage in as little as two weeks - as gas supplies claim Christmas dinner is under threat amid a gas crisis.

A lack of CO2 means that those working in the meat industry are unable to stun their animals before slaughtering them - as well as increasing the shelf life of packaged foods.

Two fertiliser plants in the north of England, which produced the gas as a by-product, were recently closed down causing a major kink in the meat supply chain.

The scarcity of CO2 comes as gas prices continue to soar, with Whitehall holding discussions on the issue it poses to food supplies around the country.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (pictured) will tomorrow hold an emergency summit with energy bosses to thrash out a plan to fix the fuel crisis, which has sparked fears of major food shortages

The British Meat processors Association has now warned that the industry will only be able to continue for two weeks at most before stocks of CO2 run out, the Sun reports.

The association's boss Nick Allen told the publication: '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.' 

While Ranjit Singh Boparan, who owns Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group has said that a lack of CO2 will affect the availability of traditional Christmas dinners.

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.'  

A lack of CO2 means that those working in the meat industry are unable to stun their animals before slaughtering them - as well as increasing the shelf life of packaged foods (stock image)

He added: 'The CO2 issue is a massive body blow and puts us at breaking point.' 

It comes as Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will tomorrow hold an emergency summit with energy bosses to thrash out a plan to fix the fuel crisis, which has sparked fears of major food shortages.

There is growing alarm that the food and drink industry could be badly hit by the closure of two fertiliser plants – in Teesside and Cheshire – due to gas price rises.

A by-product of the fertiliser production process is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is used in fizzy drinks and beer, as well as by the meat industry to stun animals before slaughter, in food packaging to extend shelf life and keep deliveries chilled. If supplies of CO2 run short, it raises the prospect of meat disappearing from supermarket shelves within weeks. 

Ocado, the online grocer, told customers this weekend that it had a 'limited stock' of frozen items due to a national shortage of dry ice – solid CO2.

While Ranjit Singh Boparan, who owns Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group has said that a lack of CO2 will affect the availability of traditional Christmas dinners (stock image)

The two fertiliser plants closed last week are run by the US firm CF Industries and produce around 60 per cent of Britain's CO2.

They were shut when a spike in energy costs – caused by low supplies and storage levels of gas – caused its operating costs to rocket.

As well as the food and drink industries, CO2 from the plants is used by hospitals and the nuclear power industry.

Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, yesterday said: 'This could not come at a worse time, with the shortfall of 90,000 HGV drivers already putting severe pressure on food production and distribution.'

Four more small energy firms could go bust amid the UK's rocketing energy prices

One million customers could be set for a new energy supplier as four small firms could go bust as early as next week amid skyrocketing energy prices.

The rising cost of supplying energy has left the four firms unable to power their customer's homes.

The four suppliers have requested larger businesses to prepare for a takeover of their supply, reports the BBC.

Earlier this week,  People's Energy, based in Edinburgh, and Utility Point from Dorset announced they had ceased trading.

More than 570,000 customers and 1,000 businesses will have been affected by the change.  

At the start of 2021, there were 70 suppliers providing energy to homes across the UK - although experts anticipate this number dropping to 10 by 2022. 

Industry group Oil & Gas UK warned wholesale prices for gas have risen 250 per cent since January - with a 70pc boom since August. 

Ahead of tomorrow's summit, Mr Kwarteng spent yesterday calling energy firms individually.

Last night, in a bid to ease anxieties, he said: 'I was reassured that security of supply was not a cause for immediate concern within the industry. The UK benefits from having a diverse range of gas supply sources, with sufficient capacity to more than meet demand.'

Mr Kwarteng and Greg Hands, the new Energy Minister, will tomorrow ask 20 of Britain's biggest energy companies to help stop bills soaring over the winter. Firms invited to the 90-minute roundtable include National Grid, energy suppliers Centrica, Ovo and Bulb, and regulator Ofgem.

One energy boss said Ministers could cut bills by around £150 per year if they axed the 'green taxes' on electricity, which make up around 23 per cent of their total.

Another industry source said the energy price cap could be reviewed more frequently, up from twice a year currently. The cap is announced two months in advance, potentially leaving smaller suppliers unable to cover the cost of energy they have committed to supply. Five small suppliers have gone bust since August.

The spike in gas prices has been caused by factors including low reserves after last year's cold winter, reduced supply from Russia, rising EU carbon prices, and low solar and wind energy output this month.

Last Friday, more than 40 MEPs accused Russian energy giant Gazprom of hiking gas prices to undermine Britain and the EU's recovery from the pandemic.

But Mr Kwarteng said Britain is not dependent on Russian oil and gas, adding: 'Our largest source of energy is from domestic production and the majority of imports come from reliable suppliers such as Norway. We do not expect supply emergencies this winter.'

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