‘Christmas is cancelled’, warns ‘Chicken King’

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The owner of the 2 Sisters Food Group and Bernard Matthews says that families could miss out on Christmas dinner this year because of a shortage of CO2.

The so-called “Chicken King”, Ranjit Boparan, says the closure of two large fertiliser plants in Cheshire and Teeside because of rising gas prices is hitting the food supply chain hard.

This, in turn, says Boparan will impact on the supply of turkeys. He also said the industry is suffering from a lack of workers.

CO2 is used in the slaughtering and cooling process and to extend the shelflife of food products.

Boparan told Sky News: “There are less than 100 days left until Christmas and Bernard Matthews and my other poultry businesses are working harder than ever before to try and recruit people to maintain food supplies.

“Nothing has fundamentally changed since I spoke about this issue in July. In fact, I take no pleasure in pointing out that the gaps on the shelves I warned about then are getting bigger by the day.

“The supply of Bernard Matthews turkeys this Christmas was already compromised as I need to find 1,000 extra workers to process supplies. Now with no CO2 supply, Christmas will be cancelled.

“The CO2 issue is a massive body blow and puts us at breaking point, it really does – that’s poultry, beef, pork, as well as the wider food industry.

“Without CO2, the bottom line is there is less throughput and with our sector already compromised with lack of labour, this potentially tips us over the edge.”

However, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng tweeted over the weekend that the supply of gas was “not an immediate concern” for the food industry.

He added: “The UK benefits from having a diverse range of gas supply sources, with sufficient capacity to more than meet demand.

The UK’s gas system continues to operate reliably and we do not expect supply emergencies this winter.”

2 Sisters is headquartered in Birmingham and has sites across the East and West Midlands.