Cranswick boss warns that CO2 shortages could bring supply chain to a halt

Cranswick CEO Adam Couch has warned that CO2 shortages could bring production to a halt throughout the supply chain. 

The CO2 shortage, the latest blow to hit the industry, has come about because two UK fertiliser production plants, owned by CF Fertilisers and which supply much of the nation’s CO2 as a by-product, have been shut down due to soaring gas prices.

CFF is responsible for the production of 60% of the UK’s CO2 needs, largely supplying hospitals, nuclear plants and food manufacturers, while the pig sector is reliant on it for slaughter.

Mr Couch said the shortages will compound the ongoing challenge of labour availability and, taken together, they will create significant disruption to the entire food supply chain, he warned.

“I call upon the Government to act immediately to avert a major crisis in the food industry. The sector has been asking for support to ease the labour crisis, and now C02 shortages could effectively bring production to a halt throughout the supply chain,” he said.

“The industry is already at tipping point ahead of the demanding Christmas period. We have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep food on the shelves, but there is a real risk of product shortages across the country if the Government does not act immediately to address these issues.”

British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) chief executive Nick Allen said: “This crisis highlights the fact that the British food supply chain is at the mercy of a small number of major fertiliser producers (four or five companies) spread across northern Europe.

The BMPA is lobbying Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng for Government support to help prop up UK CO2 production short-term, as well as urging the Government to take a firmer stance with the UK CO2 producers.

“This time, we’ve had zero warning of the planned closure of the fertiliser plants in Ince and Stockton-on-Tees and, as a result, it’s plunged the industry into chaos,” Mr Allen said.

Extremely worried

NPA senior policy adviser Rebecca Veale said the pig sector was ‘extremely worried’ about potential CO2 shortages, warning that it could be ‘potentially catastrophic’ for the industry, given that there is no more space on farms in the event of any further delays in the slaughtering process. There are already 100,000 pigs backed up on farm, she told the BBC Radio 4 PM programme on Friday.

Sisters Kate Morgan and Vickie Scott, who run a family farming business in Yorkshire, told the BBC Breakfast programme that if we run out of CO2, a huge backlog will develop on top of the one already happening due to COVID and Brexit-related staff shortages.

“If we can’t move the pigs, it’s devastating to think what will happen,” Kate said, who called for the Government sort the situation out. “They need to take action now because this is a real problem. I cannot imagine what we are going to have to do if they don’t step in.”

Vickie added: “This is as bad as it’s been for the pig industry for a very long time. It’s desperate.”

You can view regular NPA updates on the industry crisis HERE

Commenting on Twitter, Mr Kwarteng said he led a roundtable with UK energy companies and consumer groups this morning and would update the Commons today on the wider global gas price situation and promised that ‘consumers would come’ first as the Government seeks solutions.

Yesterday, he met Tony Will, global CEO of CF Industries. “We discussed the pressures the business is facing and explored possible ways forward to secure vital supplies, including to our food and energy industries,” he said.

He said on Saturday there was no ’cause for immediate concern’ over the supply of gas in the UK.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.