The food industry has welcomed a government deal to restart CO2 production at one UK plant after fears its shutdown could lead to shortages of products such as pork and poultry.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng yesterday (21 September) announced a short-term deal with US-owned CF Industries to restart its fertiliser plant in Teeside, though its Cheshire factory remains closed.
The sites, which together provide 60% of the UK's food-grade CO2, were shut down last week following a sharp rise in natural gas prices.
CO2 is used in food packaging, fizzy drinks and beer, and to stun animals before slaughter. Food producers had warned that any shortage could lead to issues with the supply of products such as beef, pork and poultry.
The government said it will provide limited financial support to CF Industries for three weeks while the market adapts to global gas price rises.
Ian Wright CBE, chief executive of the Food & Drink Federation, said that though there were likely to still be some food shortages, they would "not be as bad as previously feared".
"We don't yet have the detail [of the deal], but if production can restart at appropriate scale before the end of the week, this should be enough to ensure pig and poultry production can continue at close to normal," he said. "When we are certain that the immediate supply issues are resolved, we should then work with government to build resilience into the production of CO2 to protect our food supply chain."
However, Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, said the deal was "just the start of a long road ahead".
Griffiths added: "Food is a national security issue and must be treated as such: total poultry production in this country is around 20 million birds a week.
"The run-up to Christmas requires additional pressure on existing supplies as demand increases across the board. We look forward to working with Defra and BEIS to look at longer-term solutions to mitigate future impact on food supply in the UK."