The Government has brokered a deal to resolve the carbon dioxide crisis, which has triggered dire warnings about food shortages
Christmas is “safe” after ministers offered millions of pounds in taxpayers’ cash to resolve the carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage hitting food supplies.
Environment Secretary George Eustice admitted there were still challenges in the food supply chain but insisted that Brits would not face shortages in the run up to the festive period.
Industry figures had warned that shoppers could begin to see empty shelves within days due to a shortage of CO2, which is used in the production process for meat and some frozen goods.
The crisis was triggered when a major US-owned fertiliser firm – which produces CO2 as a by-product – halted UK production following a surge in wholesale gas prices.
The Government has brokered a deal with CF Industries to restart production, which means the taxpayer could potentially pay millions of pounds towards the firm’s operating costs.
But the bailout will only last three weeks – with the Government pinning its hopes on the prospect of gas prices stabilising.
Asked if the festive period was safe, Mr Eustice told LBC: “Yes, it is. Christmas is safe, of course. But there are challenges in the food supply chain and I’m not denying that.
“So pressures on labour, lack of labour availability, pressures on logistics, all of these are causing some stresses.
“It does mean that in some areas the degree of choice in supermarkets is down slightly on what it would normally be, but we’re working with the industry to make sure that we get all the food that we need on the shelves for those all-important weeks running up to Christmas.”
Mr Eustice said the deal could run to “tens of millions” of pounds – but said the Government had to act.
“The truth is, if we 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, and then we would have animal welfare issues – because you would have lots of chickens on farms that couldn’t be slaughtered on time and would have to be euthanised on farms. We would have a similar situation with pigs,” he told Sky News.
“There would have been a real animal welfare challenge here and a big disruption to the food supply chain, so we felt we needed to act.”
He insisted that increases in the price of CO2 would not hit food prices after fears that shoppers might suffer.
“The critical thing was to get production up and running expeditiously, that’s why we have needed this Government intervention,” he told the BBC.
“But we have had meetings with the food industry, they all recognise that the price of carbon dioxide is going to increase substantially.
“And when that price increases then the market signal will be there for these plants to continue producing.”