High natural gas prices have all but stopped the production of carbon dioxide (CO2), an essential substance for the production of things like beer, soda or frozen food.
A pub without beer?
High gas prices are paralysing the production of artificial fertiliser, and that is not just a problem for farmers. The ammonia used in fertiliser produces carbon dioxide (CO2) as a by-product that has all sorts of often unexpected applications, from soft drinks to slaughterhouses. The fact that Western Europe’s largest CO2 plant paused production early last week – and other suppliers are supplying either less or much more expensively – is putting many food producers and retailers in a tight spot.
Last week, Dutch online supermarket Picnic was the first to report that it would no longer be able to supply frozen products due to a shortage of dry ice (solid CO2). Belgian food federation Fevia and sector organisation Belgian Brewers, among others, are also worried. “For the time being, the problems are limited to a handful of breweries that are dependent on the one CO2 supplier shutting down his plant. But what if even more plants shut down next week? That would have gigantic consequences, not only for the breweries”, Belgian Brewers director Krishan Maudgal told VRT Nws.
“We are getting a lot of signals from companies that the situation is really problematic”, Fevia agrees. Only a drop in gas prices can get fertiliser production, and therefore the whole ecosystem, back on track. Slaughterhouses, which use carbon dioxide for stunning, also mention a shortage in CO2 – leading to unsustainable price hikes. The situation is being closely monitored by the food sector, but there is currently no other option than to wait and see how it evolves in the coming weeks.