CO2 shortage threatens UK’s supply of meat, beer and fizzy drinks, reports suggest

The UK is preparing for a severe shortage of CO2 gas which will impact supplies of beer, fizzy drinks and meat, reports suggest (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The UK is preparing for a severe shortage of CO2 gas which will impact supplies of beer, fizzy drinks and meat, reports suggest.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was warned on Thursday (16 September) of the shortages caused by two major fertiliser plants closing this week.

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Supermarkets and restaurants are expected to be affected due to gas being instrumental in the production of carbonated drinks and meat processing.

The drinks industry relies on CO2 to carbonate beverages and the meat industry uses gas throughout processing.

CF Industries Holdings closed two of its plants in Billingham in Stockton-on-Tees and Ince in Cheshire on Thursday. Both of these plants are estimated to account for up to 60% of the UK’s CO2 supplies.

The firm said it was halting production due to the rising prices of natural gas. There was no indication as to when the plants may resume production.

'We are monitoring the situation closely'

The Government said it had a close eye on the situation and that the country had access to CO2 beyond the plants.

A government spokesperson said: “We are monitoring the situation closely, and are in regular contact with the food and farming organisation and industry, to help them manage the current situation.

“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.”

The British Poultry Council (BPC) warned the industry was heading into a “downward spiral towards supply chains seriously struggling”.

It told PoliticsHome: "After five to seven days we’ll start to see significant problems in processing birds."

The BPC has urged the government to prioritise CO2 supplies for food production in order to limit the disruption to supermarket supplies and hospitality. It also asked for financial support for CO2 production until the end of this year.

The UK is also currently facing significant supply and staff shortages due to disruption caused after Brexit and absences due to Covid-related illness.

Nando’s, McDonald’s and KFC have all recently suffered supply issues, with pub chain Wetherspoons also recently facing shortages of popular beer brands.