(Reuters) - London-listed meat processor Cranswick warned on Monday that a shortage of carbon dioxide in Britain coupled with a labour crunch could bring production to a halt throughout the supply chain ahead of Christmas.
Cranswick boss Adam Couch urged the government, which has been in emergency talks with the energy industry to deal with soaring gas prices, to act immediately to avert "a major crisis in the food industry".
"The industry is already at tipping point ahead of the demanding Christmas period," Couch said in a statement.
"We have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep food on the shelves, but there is a real risk of product shortages across the country if the Government does not act immediately to address these issues .... C02 shortages could effectively bring production to a halt."
Shares in the company whose products range from fresh pork and gourmet sausages to continental foods were down nearly 3% at 36.48 pounds on the midcap index by 1002 GMT.
Carbon dioxide is used to stun animals before slaughter, in the vacuum packing of food products to extend their shelf life, and to put the fizz into beer, cider and soft drinks.
Couch did not say why he thought there was a shortage of the gas nor did Cranswick, which produces and supplies food to grocery retailers, elaborate on its supply levels or say how long it could carry on without more CO2.
Britain's meat industry on Friday warned that an impending shortage of carbon dioxide could cause massive disruption to food supplies within two weeks.
Britain's food supply chain, creaking from a shortage of lorry drivers and the impact of Brexit and COVID-19, is heavily reliant on fertiliser producers for CO2 which is a by-product of their production process.
However, two of the largest fertiliser producers, Norway's Yara and rival CF Industries Holdings, have curbed production due to a surge in natural gas prices, which has in turn started to dry up CO2 supplies.
(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel)