Fears are growing that soaring gas prices could spark food shortages after two fertiliser plants were forced to close.
The rise has been blamed on high global demand, maintenance issues and lower solar and wind energy output.
The high prices have already led two large UK fertiliser plants to close, shutting down Britain’s commercial production of carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fertiliser, is used in the production and transport of a wide range of products including meat, bread, beer and fizzy drinks.
The meat industry would be able to carry on for less than two weeks before carbon dioxide stocks are depleted, the Times reports.
The gas is used to stun animals before slaughter and extending the shelf-life of products.
British Meat Processors Association chief executive Nick Allen told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “If we haven’t got the CO2 supplies, on the packaging side that reduces the shelf-life of products going on the shelves at a time when we are really struggling because of all the transport problems.
“This has come as a huge shock, it has happened so quickly. I think everyone is outraged in the industry that these fertiliser plants can shut down without any warning whatsoever and suddenly take something which is so essential to the food supply chain off-stream just like that.
“We really need Government to step in now and actually do something.”
Today, I’ll be speaking to chief executives of the UK’s largest energy suppliers + operators to discuss the global gas situation
Britain has a diverse range of gas supply sources, with sufficient capacity to more than meet demand
We do not expect supply emergencies this winter
— Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) September 18, 2021
A former head of Ofgem said Britain is likely to face high energy prices for the rest of the year.
Dermot Nolan said the increases were the result of depleted stocks following a cold winter last winter, reduced supply from Russia, and increased demand for liquefied natural gas from the Far East.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “It is not obvious to me what can be done in the very short run. Britain does have secure relatively diverse sources of gas, so I think the lights will stay on.
“But I am afraid it is likely in my view that high gas and high electricity prices will be sustained for the next three to four months.
“It is very difficult to see what the Government can do directly in this regard.”
Farmers are also expected to be hit by high prices for fertiliser, raising concerns about crop yields and food supply next spring.
Government sources have reportedly told the BBC there is no threat to the UK’s gas supplies, but potential impacts on small energy companies most at risk of exposure are being monitored.
A Government spokesperson told the broadcaster: “The UK benefits from having access to highly diverse sources of gas supply to ensure households, businesses and heavy industry get the energy they need at a fair price.
“We are monitoring this situation closely and are in regular contact with the food and farming organisations and industry, to help them manage the current situation.”