First beer, now chicken! Shortage warnings as CO2 stocks fall

First drinks producers were warning about beer – now chicken could also be at risk due to dwindling carbon dioxide (CO2) stocks.

The British Poultry Council (BPC) has called on the government and gas producers for help after beer, fizzy drinks and meat producers all warned of possible shortages caused by a lack of the gas.

Poultry slaughterhouses are asking for priority supplies and saying the current shortage could have a “potentially huge effect” on British food production.

At least five CO2 producers across northern Europe have shut down plants for maintenance for the spring and summer months.

The shortages are understood to have been caused by a longer than usual break in production of ammonia, one of the key sources of food grade CO2 – which is used to carbonate drinks and preserve some packed fresh foods – in Europe.

Many major drink manufacturers are understood to be experiencing disruption – at a time when demand for drinks is high as warmer summer temperatures combine with the World Cup in Russia.

BPC chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “With the supply of CO2 tightened across Europe, the BPC is calling on government and major gas producers to prioritise supplies to slaughterhouses and keep the food chain moving.

“It is worrying that failures in the gas sector can have such a potentially huge effect on British food production.”

Lager
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CO2 is needed to carbonate beer

Trade journal Gas World said the shortage had been described as the “worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide business in decades”.

It said the shortage appeared to be likely to continue for the remainder of June “at least”.

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has also said it is “very concerned” about the shortage.

BMPA deputy director Fiona Steiger said: “Supply is running out and it’s pretty tight for some people. Others hope to be able to see it out.”

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “We will continue to monitor the situation carefully. However, given the time of year and the World Cup, this situation has arisen at an unfortunate time for the brewing industry.”

A government spokesman said: “The government is aware that there are reports of a CO2 shortage affecting the food and drink sector, and that industry is working to find a solution.”

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