Carbon dioxide gas is used for gas-flushed and modified atmosphere product packaging and also as a humane method of stunning at the point of slaughter. A shortage of CO2 gas will therefore affect a wide variety of foods from cooked and fresh meat and ready meals through to pre-packaged salads.
While some CO2 plants have agreed to re-start operations after having shut down for planned maintenance, fresh supplies will only start filtering through to firms in the next couple of weeks. This means that that we can expect the food supply chain to be experiencing continued disruption during that time which comes at a cost.
The hidden effects of the CO2 shortage will be felt far beyond what the consumer sees on supermarket shelves. If abattoirs and meat processing plants are unable to take-in animals and process products, there is the risk of a logjam of animals back to the farms and a consequent animal welfare issue.
It has become clear that CO2 plays a critical part in the food and drink manufacturing process and businesses can grind to a halt if they cannot secure an adequate supply. Some meat industry companies simply don’t have an alternative method of production that doesn’t rely on CO2, and re-configuring their plants is not an option.
This crisis has highlighted the fact that the British food supply chain is at the mercy of a small number of major fertilizer producers (four or five companies) spread across northern Europe, who’s factories’ by-productwe rely on to keep our food chain moving.
Both the fertilizer producers and, by extension their CO2 customers in the food and drink industry, are reliant on commodity prices and demand for ammonium nitrate staying high. If this dips (which has been the case this year), less fertilizer is produced, factories slow production and close earlier. The result is that CO2 supplies dry up.
While this is not a significant problem for the fertilizer manufacturers, it is of much more strategic importance to the country’s food security.
Saturday July 7, 2018/ British Meat Processors Association/ United Kingdom.