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Poultry shortages after fertiliser plants close

The closure of 2 of the UK’s largest fertiliser plants due to the huge jump in gas prices is having a massive knock-on impact on the nation’s poultry sector. Their by-product CO2, used for bird stunning, is in short supply.

The 2 fertiliser plants have decided to suspend operations as production is no longer commercially viable, prompting calls from poultry leaders for government intervention.

Both for stunning and packaging the poultry industry needs CO2, which is currently in short supply. Photo: Hans Prinsen
Both for stunning and packaging the poultry industry needs CO2, which is currently in short supply. Photo: Hans Prinsen

Ranjit Singh Boparan, founder of 2 Sisters Food Group, said it was vital for the government to get involved: “They need to provide fertiliser companies with a package to save Christmas and save the food supply chain,” he told the BBC.

Poultry sector compromised

Boparan said his turkey and poultry businesses had already been facing significant labour shortage issues but the latest development would compromise the sector further. He was supported by Ian Wright, CE of the UK Food and Drink Federation, who warned that without rapid government support on the price of gas, the impact on supermarket shelves would be felt within 2 weeks.

Food security

Richard Griffiths, CE of the British Poultry Council, said carbon dioxide should be near the top of the government’s agenda: “It is one of those things that nobody thinks about until the lack of it threatens to undermine UK food security, and so here we are,” he said, adding, “There is a priority list for CO2 users in an emergency – nuclear power, healthcare, and livestock production – and we need Government to act on that. We use CO2 in the slaughter process, packaging, and chilling stages of poultry meat production. If any of those stages is slowed or interrupted then so is the food supply. It really is as simple as that.

”...the risk of food shortages should be unthinkable.”

“In the UK we produce 20 million chickens every week and it is a key part of both retail and food service. We have recently seen the effects of labour shortages have had on parts of the hospitality sector, and this new crisis will only compound the problem. Multiply that across other food sectors and that means a lot of food either going to waste or not getting to where it is needed,” he said.

“We have dealt with CO2 shortages before, but this feels different. We need ministers to recognise the national interest here and step in to help, because the risk of food shortages should be unthinkable. A commitment has been made at the highest levels of Government to ‘save Christmas’ and it has to start here and now,” he noted.