Farming News - CO2 production to restart as Government strikes a deal with CF

CO2 production to restart as Government strikes a deal with CF

CF Fertilisers - Procurement

The government has agreed to bail out CF Fertlisers in order that the US company can restart the production of CO2 after soaring gas prices forced it to halt operations, threatening the supply of meat in the country.

British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Tuesday that the "short-term financial agreement" with CF Fertilisers will allow the company to immediately restart operations.

The agreement will last for three weeks whilst the CO2 market adapts to the global gas prices, the business secretary said in a statement.

Meat processors warned they would have to stop production in days, leading to empty supermarket shelves if production did not resume.

CO2, the by product of fertiliser, produced by CF is used to stun animals for slaughter and preserve the shelf life of meat.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng met the CF Industries boss, Tony Will, on Sunday, and agreed that the government could provide financial support to get production started again.

George Eustice told Sky News that :"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.

"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".

The soaring price of wholesale gas has also prompted several small energy providers to collapse, and it was starting to have a knock-on impact on the food industry.

CO2 is used in the vacuum packing of food products to extend their shelf life and helps with food deliveries in the solid form of dry ice.

Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium welcomed the news. "It is vital that production at the (two UK plants) is restarted as soon as possible, and distributed quickly to food manufacturers in need of it," he said.

He told the BBC's Today programme: "Our understanding is that provided that carbon dioxide starts to get through to food producers by the end of the week, then we can avert major and significant disruption in our stores.

NFU President Minette Batters said “The UK food supply chain has so far done a fantastic job keeping our shelves full but these past few days have highlighted starkly the fragility in the supply chain. It is something government must not take for granted and I want us to use this moment to ensure we all understand what’s at stake.

“Last week at Back British Farming Day we repeated our ask for government to place the same value on British food and its production standards as the British people do. We are currently 60% self-sufficient in food and our current situation demonstrates the need for strategic policies that bolster domestic food production. Food shortages are a clear and present danger which ministers must work urgently with the whole supply chain to avoid."

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA said: “ Any delay to reinstating this supply could be catastrophic for animal welfare. The potential animal welfare impact of the ongoing shortage of CO2 for the stunning and slaughter for farm animals could have been appalling. We may have been in a situation where tens of thousands of pigs could have been shot on farms, without the appropriate facilities to ensure their welfare.

“For the hundreds of thousands of poultry, the potential scenario was shutting off the ventilation in their sheds, which is utterly unacceptable from a welfare perspective. 

“This critical situation should also prompt us to be looking more closely at the ‘machinery’ of farming that we have created, and how we can ensure our husbandry systems are more resilient and protect the welfare of animals when issues like this emerge. 

“The sheer volume of animals we are farming and the increasingly intensive methods of husbandry and slaughter mean there is no safety net for welfare. 

“We need to learn lessons from this averted crisis and the one in 2018 and put robust back-up systems in place so there is resilience in supply chains and welfare is safeguarded.”