Some of Britain's meat processors will run out of carbon dioxide within five days, forcing them to halt production, the head of the industry's lobby group warned on Monday.
A jump in gas prices has forced several domestic energy suppliers out of business and has shut fertiliser plants that also produce carbon dioxide (CO2), used to stun animals before slaughter and prolong the shelf-life of food.
The shortage of CO2, also used to put the fizz in beer, cider and soft drinks, has compounded an acute shortage of truck drivers in the UK, which has been blamed on the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit.
"My members are saying anything between five, 10 and 15 days supply," Nick Allen of the British Meat Processors Association told Sky News.
With no CO2 a meat processor cannot operate, he said.
Animal Welfare Problems
"The animals have to stay on farm, they'll cause farmers on the farm huge animal welfare problems and British pork and British poultry will disappear off the shelves," Allen said.
"We're two weeks away from seeing some real impacts on the shelves. On the poultry side we're hearing they're even tighter supplies so we might see poultry disappearing even sooner."
Allen said the government was working hard to try and resolve the issue and could hopefully persuade a UK fertiliser producer to re-start their plant.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents retailers including the major supermarket groups, said the CO2 crisis added to existing pressures on production and distribution.
"Retailers are working with their suppliers to resolve this issue, but government must investigate this issue as soon as possible and work with industry to ensure a solution is found quickly and problems don’t escalate further," said Andrew Opie, the BRC's director of food and sustainability.
Foreign office minister James Cleverly said the government was looking to address short-term shortages.
"We will ensure that we are able to put food on the table, obviously that is a real priority," he told Sky News.
News by Reuters, edited by ESM. For more Supply Chain news, click here. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.