Ireland’s food and drink industry is bracing for a potential shortage of industrial carbon dioxide used for everything from the buzz in soft drinks to the slaughter of animals.
The UK is already experiencing shortages and price hikes, and one of the island of Ireland’s main suppliers, Nippon Gas, has said the same problems could spread elsewhere in Europe.
Food Drink Ireland, the Ibec group representing Irish producers, said it had “concerns” over supplies but hoped there would be no fallout from the UK.
The island of Ireland has no local sources of carbon dioxide (CO2).
“There are concerns in the supply chain for food grade CO2 due to supply issues in the UK and Northern Europe,” said FDI Director Paul Kelly.
“Right now the supplies are coming in and until the UK supply issues are fully resolved there will be no problem.
“The food processing industry will continue to monitor this closely in the days and weeks to come. “
British beverage company Britvic – which owns the Ballygowan, MiWadi, Club, TK and Cidona brands and distributes Pepsi, 7UP and Mountain Dew on behalf of PepsiCo – said its products had not been affected so far.
“The availability of CO2 does not affect the production of our brands,” said a spokesperson for Britvic.
“We work closely with our customers and supplier partners to protect our service levels going forward. “
UK poultry, beer and soft drink companies have been warned to expect a 400% rise in CO2 prices as the UK government signs an emergency deal with a US chemicals company to restart production of CO2 in two closed factories.
The gas is used to spice up carbonated drinks, package fruits and vegetables, decaffeinate coffee, and stun animals before slaughter.
There were similar gas supply shortages in the UK in 2018, but they were addressed and did not result in gaps on supermarket shelves.
But the Japanese company Nippon Gases, which supplies the island of Ireland, told the Financial Times that “other countries in Europe will also suffer from shortages” of CO2, saying its supplies have fallen by 50% in the region. .
The company said nuclear power plants, meat production and medical products would be hit the hardest.
CO2 is a by-product of the manufacture of fertilizers, which uses natural gas as the main input.
But natural gas prices have skyrocketed amid increased demand during a colder-than-expected winter, with some small UK businesses already going bankrupt.
Industrial gas companies, including The Linde Group and Air Products – which supply CO2 to Ireland through the BOC and Ecogas companies – derive their CO2 primarily from fertilizer factories.
UK Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News there would be a “sharp rise” in the cost of CO2 and said some of UK’s meat and poultry processors would have had to shut down within days if the government had not acted.
He said the impact on food prices would be negligible.
But Richard Walker, the boss of the Island supermarket, said the temporary deal to supply CO2 would not “save Christmas” or solve long-term problems.
Spanish vice-president and Ecology Minister Teresa Ribera said on Wednesday the EU was working on “flexible options” to help tackle rising energy prices in the bloc, and would release them in the coming weeks.