Food

‘You could see pork disappear off the shelves’: Gas price spike threatens UK food production, industry boss warns

Pork and poultry could be among the food products made harder to come by because of a spike in gas prices, an industry boss has warned.

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, told Sky News that Britons could see both “disappear off the shelves in the next couple of weeks”.

It’s down to an increase in the cost of fuel, which is threatening food production and other industries – prompting the business secretary to hold talks with Britain’s energy firms.

Sky News understands Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is on Saturday talking to senior executives from Ofgem, Centrica, National Grid, Energy UK, Octopus, Ovo, SSE, EDF, Scottish Power, Shell Energy, E.ON, Bulb and SGN.

Mr Kwarteng tweeted that the UK government does “not expect supply emergencies this winter”.

It follows reports that some companies that use gas in the production of products have shut down due to the high price of the fuel.

A resulting shortage of carbon dioxide is said to be stoking worries there could be gaps in the supply of meat, as the industry uses CO2 in the slaughter of animals.

But there are also concerns some people will be unable to afford the high cost of heating their homes over winter.

A spokesperson for the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department told Sky News: “The UK benefits from having access to highly diverse sources of gas supply to ensure households, businesses and heavy industry get the energy they need at a fair price.

“We are monitoring this situation closely and are in regular contact with the food and farming organisations and industry, to help them manage the current situation.”

Energy security is an absolute priority. We are working closely with @ofgem and gas operators to monitor supply and demand

This explainer sets out the background, and the action we are taking to protect energy supply, industry, and consumers 👇🏾https://t.co/tmgQtzy0Xe

— Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) September 18, 2021

In an unusual move and in a reference to consumers, government officials have written an “explainer” to set out why “the Great Britain (GB) gas system has… sufficient delivery capacity to more than meet demand”.

The rise in gas prices has been blamed on high global demand, maintenance issues, and lower solar and wind energy output.

A former Ofgem chief told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that Britain is likely to face high energy prices for the rest of the year.

Dermot Nolan said the increases were the result of depleted stocks following a cold winter last winter, reduced supply from Russia, and increased demand for liquefied natural gas from the Far East.

Kwasi Kwarteng

Image:
Kwasi Kwarteng has said there will be no gas supply issues in the UK

The government has been urged by meat producers to protect the food supply chain after the gas price hike resulted in the industry suffering carbon dioxide shortages.

Fertiliser plants in Teesside and Cheshire, which produce CO2 as a by-product, have halted production as a result of the sudden rise in wholesale gas prices.

Sky’s Ed Conway says that in the coming months, we can expect many more industrial plants to temporarily cease production.

Mr Allen told Sky News his industry’s concern was “what conversations are going on with this company that shut down these two fertiliser plants”.

A British Gas boiler controller.

Image:
There are concerns some people will be unable to afford the high cost of heating their homes over winter

He said: “We’re in the dark about as to what negotiations going on there, but we sincerely hope that something is happening.

“In very simple terms, if we can’t humanely slaughter the poultry and pigs, you could see British poultry meat and British pork disappear off the shelves in the next couple of weeks.

“The impact it will have at farm level is absolutely horrendous, from our perspective this is something that really needs to be taken seriously now.

“What’s going to happen back at farm level, where these animals are left on the farm? What are the farmers going to do with them? It’s unthinkable some of the consequences here, and that’s why it’s really important the government gets stuck into this, it needs government intervention at some level.”

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