Rising energy prices threatens national food security if CO2 production is not supported by Government in the run up to Christmas, warns the British Poultry Council.
A commercial decision to halt fertiliser production at two plants providing up to 60% of Britain’s CO2 production has compromised CO2 supply for several sectors, including vital food production. It is unknown if or when stocks will be replenished. CO2 production must be considered as something that is in ‘the national interest’ and both prioritised and financially supported by Government to keep food moving.
Slaughterhouses and processing plants – which process an average of 20 million birds a week – hold limited stock of CO2. There is no visibility as to UK stocks or certainty around CO2 deliveries to plants and slaughterhouses as suppliers are not scheduling beyond 24 hours in advance.
British Poultry Council Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, said: “With fewer than 100 days to go until Christmas, and already facing mounting labour shortages, the last thing British poultry production needs is more pressure.
If CO2 supplies become tighter and more unpredictable then supply chains will have to slow down. Ultimately, no CO2 means no throughput.
CO2 is vital for hugely important sectors such as nuclear power, healthcare, and food production. These sectors are part of a priority list for CO2 supply. We need the Government to help facilitate and financially support that prioritisation to maintain food supply and avoid bird welfare issues.
The possible effect on food supply remains uncertain. We are working closely with Defra and BEIS to assess stock, implement contingency plans and mitigate any major impact on a sustainable supply of food. Our members are on a knife-edge situation at the moment.
When birds cannot be slaughtered and must be kept on farm there is the potential for welfare, food supply and food waste issues to arise. If vital sectors like the poultry meat industry face CO2 shortages that compromise their performance, it will very quickly become an issue of national security. We hope this can be avoided through swift Government action.”
The British Poultry Council is calling on Government to:
- Prioritise CO2 supplies to poultry meat production on the grounds of maintaining food supply and avoiding bird welfare issues.
- Financially support (Until the end of the year) the UK production of CO2 through the continued operation of fertiliser plants.
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