Major food producers warned last night that meat would run out in two weeks – as Business Secretary Kwasi Quarteng locked in crisis talks with energy bosses.
High level discussions took place in Whitehall as rising gas prices threatened a major knock to the production and supply of food.
One of the country’s largest meat firms said Christmas dinner could be closed. And Ocado said he was unable to deliver the frozen goods because of the lack of dry ice produced by carbon dioxide (CO2).
The closure of two fertilizer plants in the north of England – which produce CO2 as a by-product – has led to major issues in the supply of meat and other foodstuffs. Factories were forced to close due to high gas prices after providing 60 percent of domestic production of commercial CO2.
This gas is used in food packaging to stun animals before slaughter and to increase shelf life.
British Meat Processors Association boss Nick Allen warned that businesses in the industry could run for less than two weeks before CO2 stocks run out and no meat will be available. He added: “Everyone is outraged that these fertilizer plants can shut down without warning and take away something that is essential to the supply chain.”
The country’s largest poultry supplier last night even claimed that Christmas dinner could be “cancelled” due to shortages.
Bernard Mathews and Ranjit Singh Boparan, owner of Two Sisters Food Group, say that the shortage of gas and the shortage of staff will have a huge impact on the supply. He said: “The supply of Bernard Matthews turkeys this Christmas was already compromised because I need to find 1,000 additional workers to process the supplies. Now, Christmas will be canceled with no CO2 supply. “
A meat industry figure said the capture of CO2 was “hand-to-mouth” and the public should expect to see prices rise in stores in the coming weeks and months.
Mr Quarteng yesterday held crisis meetings with energy owners including Centrica and EDF, where the “impact” of higher global prices were discussed but there were no current supply concerns. Industry data said there was already a “perfect storm” over the Christmas rush and shortage of haulage drivers.
Meanwhile, last night there were apprehensions that four small energy companies may collapse next week and big companies are ready to step in and take over 100,000 customers.
And the popular online comparison site Comparison Bazaar has suspended offering energy quotes due to the 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 later this week.”
Q&A: Britain’s winter threat
Why have prices gone up?
Factors include high global demand and short supply, maintenance problems and low levels of solar and wind power.
How does this affect the food and beverage supply?
Two large factories producing carbon dioxide have closed. It is used in meat packaging, for rattling animals before slaughter and is important for fizzy drinks and beer.
Will the UK run out of gas soon?
The government says it has a diverse range of gas supply sources that can meet demand.
Will house prices rise?
Experts say that with less affordable rates on variable tariffs, there could be a rise in bills.