Author: Becca, Group Business Development Manager, Analox Group
Date: 27th Oct 21
Empty shelves and rising food prices are forcing Britain’s shoppers to tighten their belts and shop savvier, but what is causing these shortages and price hikes? And how does CO2 play a role? Becca from Analox Group explains.
“The UK has been hit hard by an energy crisis, this is due to a number of factors. We have had lower winds, resulting in less renewable energy being produced, there have been nuclear power station outages, and reduced supply from critical pipelines from Norway and Russia. We also had an exceptionally cold winter in 2020 which has depleted our resources and we cannot overlook the effect of the pandemic, as the world economies recover, prices will surge.
Energy prices have risen by 70% since August, this has a knock-on effect on business’ with some being forced to close temporarily.
CF Industries, based in Teesside and Cheshire were one company to cease trading as it simply wasn’t viable for them to operate under these circumstances. This hit the UK hard, as CF Industries generates around 60% of our carbon dioxide (CO2) which is used in critical industries such as food and beverage production and dispense and the medical and life science sectors.
CO2 is a by-product of ammonia production used for fertilizer which is produced at the likes of CF Industries. They capture the carbon dioxide and purify it so it can then be sold on to critical industries. It also helps to reduce the impact on the environment by reducing the carbon dioxide concentrations being released into the atmosphere which ultimately reduces the carbon footprint.
This caused a major issue for food and drink producers as CO2 is a key element in their processes. It is used for many applications such as the humane stunning of poultry, cheese production, growing of vegetables, carbonation of beers and fizzy drinks and to prolong the shelf life of meats, bakery products, fish and dried foods using a method called modified atmosphere packaging (MAP).
With Christmas on the horizon, the industry would usually be ramping up production to meet the increased demand, but the CO2 shortages have actually delayed production, leading to gaps on the shelves. The shortage has also inflated the price of CO2 with some companies reporting an enormous 400% rise. Someone has to bear these additional costs and unfortunately, it is usually the consumer which is why we have also seen supermarket prices rising over recent weeks.
This isn’t the first time we have been impacted by a CO2shortage, football fans will likely remember the World Cup in 2018 where similar circumstances led to pubs and stadiums across Britain and Europe running out of popular tipples such as John Smiths beer and Strongbow cider. Fertilizer plants had shut for essential maintenance, then there was a surge in demand attributed to the World Cup celebrations.
Analox Group is committed to helping businesses monitor and measure their CO2 usage in a bid to reduce the wastage of this invaluable gas. We offer a range of both portable and fixed carbon dioxide monitors which will alert users to any leaks of CO2 so they can act quickly and prevent any further wastage. These carbon dioxide detectors, namely the A50 and Ax60+ will also protect the lives of those working in areas where CO2 is being used or stored. Enriched CO2 levels as low as just 1.5% can have damaging effects on the human body so we must protect those working in these industries.
As well as being toxic to humans, CO2 can also be poisonous to crops. CO2 is required for photosynthesis, so tomato and cucumber producers such as Jan Bezemers & Sons in North Yorkshire, inject CO2 into grow houses to increase their yields, a process known as CO2 optimization. However, too much CO2 can also kill the crops so this must be monitored very closely. Jan Bezemers have been using the Analox Group A50 CO2 monitoring systems for over 15 years. As well as protecting their team who work hard to supply all the major UK supermarkets with fresh vegetables, it also removes the risk of crop poisoning and increases the value of crops per planted hectare.
The domino effect of the energy crisis is clear to see but we would urge consumers not to panic buy as this will only add additional pressure. We need to allow the food and beverage producers time to recover and rebuild following the reopening of the fertilizer plants and a Government pause on CO2 competition laws. If we all buy only what we need, we will together help to ease the pressure on the food and beverage industry so they can resume normal service in time for the Christmas celebrations.