Empty spaces are seen on shelves at a supermarket in Manchester, Britain, on Sept. 22, 2021. British Environment Secretary George Eustice said on Wednesday that the food industry could face a sharp price rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) even though the government reached an interim deal with a major producer to restart CO2 production. (Photo by Jon Super/Xinhua)
LONDON, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- British Environment Secretary George Eustice said on Wednesday that the food industry could face a sharp price rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) even though the government reached an interim deal with a major producer to restart CO2 production.
CF Industries, a North American manufacturer and distributor of agricultural fertilizers, had halted two of its fertiliser factories in Britain -- which produce carbon dioxide as a by-product -- because of soaring gas prices. It produces around 60 percent of Britain's CO2, used primarily by the food sector.
In food industry, CO2 is used to stun animals prior to slaughter, added to soft drinks to produce fizz and injected into the packaging of perishable foods for longer shelf life.
The British government announced on Tuesday a short-term arrangement with CF Fertilisers to allow the company to immediately restart operations and produce CO2 at one of its plants in Billingham. The government said it will provide limited financial support for CF Fertilisers' operating costs for three weeks while the CO2 market adapts to global gas prices.
"They're big costly plants," Eustice told Sky News, adding that it will take 48 hours for operations at the plants to get up and running again.
"We need the market to adjust, the food industry knows there's going to be a sharp rise in the cost of carbon dioxide, probably going from something like 200 pounds (about 273 U.S. dollars) a tonne eventually up to closer to 1,000 pounds (about 136 dollars) a tonne, so a big, sharp rise," Eustice said.
He said if the government did not act then, by this weekend, or certainly by the early part of next week, some of the poultry processing plants would need to close, resulting in a real animal welfare challenge and a big disruption to the food supply chain.
Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association, said earlier that this crisis highlights the fact that the British food supply chain is at the mercy of a small number of major fertiliser producers spread across northern Europe.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, welcomed the decision, but said the timetable to restart CF Industries' factory and start producing carbon dioxide "will still be tight".
"Our understanding is that provided that carbon dioxide starts to get through to food producers by the end of the week, then we can avert major and significant disruption in our stores," he told the BBC. Enditem