LONDON (AP) — Britain’s business secretary said he hopes to reach an agreement Tuesday to restore carbon dioxide supplies to food processors and avert potential shortages and price increases as the country deals with the fallout from soaring energy prices.
Kwasi Kwarteng’s comments came after crisis talks with the chief executive of CF Industries, which normally supplies the bulk of the carbon dioxide used by food processors but has suspended production because of high natural gas prices.
“We’re hopeful that we can get something sorted today and get the production up and running in the next few days,” Kwarteng told the BBC. “It may come at some cost. We’re still hammering out details. We’re still looking at a plan.”
The food processing industry, which uses carbon dioxide to stun animals before slaughter and to keep food fresh during packaging, is one of the first to feel the impact of the spike in wholesale gas prices. They have tripled this year in Britain as the global economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic — boosting demand for energy.
CF, which generates carbon dioxide as a byproduct of making fertilizer, has temporarily slashed production because costs are too high.
Kwarteng said the government is discussing a range of options to bolster carbon dioxide supplies, including subsidizing production at CF.
Unless there’s a deal soon, shoppers will begin to notice shortages “in about 10 days,” said Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation.
The just-in-time supply system that underpins both supermarkets and the hospitality industry “is under the most strain it has ever been in the 40 years it has been there,” Wright told the BBC.