Food and drink manufacturers are calling for urgent action from the government to resolve the ongoing carbon dioxide crisis, as concerns mount over availability problems and shortages right in the middle of the World Cup and the crucial summer barbecue season.
Defra yesterday described the crisis as an “issue for industry”, though it added it was “in contact” with companies affected by the shortages.
However, the Food and Drink Federation said decisive government action was now urgently needed, warning there was a worrying “lack of clarity” over the shortages and how they might be resolved.
Chief scientific officer Helen Munday said: “Despite the focus in the media on certain sectors, this is an issue that will affect much of the UK’s £112bn farm-to-fork supply chain. Government must act with urgency to assess the issue as quickly as possible and support the industry through any period of restricted supply.”
The government needs to step in to try to seek consensus and also to try to broker emergency suppliers
One leading supplier source added: “The government urgently needs to get to grips with the situation to make sure it has the widest possible view of how this is affecting the industry.
”They need to gather a timetable together or the impact of the threat on various sectors and how long it will before they run out of supplies. The government needs to realise the suppliers that are still in production will have contracts with a random group of different customers and that there is a free for all, where it is basically every company out for themselves.
“I’m not sure there are powers to prioritise suppliers and how can you prioritise sectors, but the government needs to step in to try to seek consensus and also to try to broker emergency suppliers from other places “
The source added: ”What’s going to happen is that the shelves are going to be empty of chicken and carbonated soft drinks and on Sunday afternoon, just as England are lining up to face Panama, the pubs are going to start running out of booze. That’s when the public are going to start getting a bit irate.”
‘At least four weeks’
It comes as there is a lack of clarity over how long the shortages might last.
The gas companies supplying carbon dioxide to the food and drink sector have been tight-lipped on the issue, though industry sources report they believe the shortages will last for at least four weeks.
The British Meat Processors Association’s deputy director Fiona Steiger today said: “It is understood that shortage of carbon dioxide gas could last approximately four weeks, but the true picture is still emerging as more information comes through from gas suppliers and their customers up and down the food supply chain.”
Bestway Wholesale said it believed the timescale was along similar lines, with trading director Dawood Pervez saying: “Some suppliers have contacted us to indicate that there will be supply failure that will last in excess of a month, however others are relatively unaffected as they have their own captive sources of CO2.”