Beer, fizzy drinks and meat supplies threatened as CO2 shortage deepens

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British supermarkets have been facing supply shortages all summer before this latest issue  (Getty Images)
British supermarkets have been facing supply shortages all summer before this latest issue (Getty Images)

The UK is bracing itself for a severe shortage of CO2 gas impacting supplies of beer, fizzy drink and meat, according to reports.

Supermarkets shelves and restaurants are expected to be affected this week given that the gas is instrumental to the production of carbonated drinks and meat processing.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was on Thursday warned of the shortages caused by the closure of two major fertiliser plants this week.

The government said it had a close eye on the situation, adding the country had access to CO2 beyond the plants.

A spokesperson said: “We are monitoring the situation closely, and are in regular contact with the food and farming organisation and industry, to help them manage the current situation.

“The UK benefits from having access to highly diverse sources of gas supply to ensure households, businesses and heavy industry get the energy they need at a fair price.”

CF Industries Holdings closed two of its plants in Billingham in Stockton-on-Tees and Ince in Cheshire on Thursday, both of which are estimated to account for up to 60 per cent of the UK’s CO2 supplies.

It said it was halting production due to the rising prices of natural gas, and had no indication as to when it would resume.

Whilst the drinks industry relies on CO2 to carbonate beverages, the meat industry uses the gas extensively throughout processing; in slaughterhouses, and for packaging and refrigeration.

The British Poultry Council (BPC) warned the industry was heading into a “downward spiral towards supply chains seriously struggling”.

It told PoliticsHome: "After five to seven days we’ll start to see significant problems in processing birds."

The council urged the government to prioritise CO2 supplies for food production to limit the disruption to supermarket supplies and hospitality businesses. It also asked for financial support for CO2 production until the end of the year.

The UK is facing significant supply and staff shortages with many struggling industries blaming the disruption on Brexit and absences due to Covid-related sickness.

Fast food restaurant Nando’s, McDonald’s and KFC have all suffered supply issues, while pub chain Wetherspoons faced shortages of popular beer brands.

The lack of HGV drivers has driven the government to change the testing process for lorry drivers, relaxing the Drivers’ Hours rules, and introducing a £7,000 funding for the Large Goods Vehicle Driver apprenticeship scheme.

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