Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon MSP has called for an urgent meeting with her UK Government counterpart as concern over the impact of a shortage of carbon dioxide (CO2) supplies on the food and drink sector continues to grow.
Carbon dioxide has a broad range of uses including producing and packing carbonated drinks such as beer and soda, as well as stunning livestock before slaughter.
Ms Gougeon highlighted the short-term deal with carbon dioxide manufacturer, CF Fertilisers is drawing to a close – with no information on contingency plans. She said:
“Carbon dioxide plays a key role in our economy and failure to secure adequate supplies will have a significant impact on our agriculture sector, wider food and drink manufacturing and also our hospitality industry.
“The failure of UK Ministers to address meaningfully the crisis for Scotland’s food and drink industry is unacceptable.
“I am also concerned that, even if CO2 supplies are secured, increased costs will be incurred which will be passed on to other parts of the supply chain at a time when it is vulnerable to price fluctuations. That simply cannot happen – businesses cannot afford to absorb these costs, and should not have to, given this crisis is entirely UK made.
“So I am calling on the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, to get round the table with all the Cabinet Secretaries from the devolved nations. He needs to outline the UK Government’s plans to save Scotland and the UK’s food and drink industry from further harm, particularly to secure alternative CO2 supplies. Most importantly, he needs to come up with a plan to support businesses through this crisis.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“Natural gas prices in the UK have soared by over 250% since January and record energy prices have forced two fertiliser plants in the north of England to shut down.
“Scottish drinks giant AG Barr, which produces Irn Bru, has already expressed concerns over the potential impact of continued increases.
“The hospitality sector, which is heavily reliant on carbon dioxide for carbonated drinks, is at risk of seeing its recovery stunted by this shortage.
“This is a matter reserved to the UK Government and it is crucial that they take urgent action and provide clarity to our businesses.”