CO2 shortages affects many functions across the food supply system

CO2 is used across the food supply system. So the current CO2 shortage inevitably has knock-on affects on our food supplies. Reports are coming in of farms having to keep animals and poultry on-site as they can’t be sent for slaughter, adding to the problems caused by haulage firms not being able to recruit HGV drivers. CO2 is also used in processing and packaging to increase the shelf live of fresh produce, and in cooling systems with all the knock-on impacts in the cool and cold (= frozen) supply chains.

The function space map we drew up a few months ago shows how widespread the challenges will prove to be if the CO2 shortage continues for any length of time:

As we pointed out here, this function map is useful to help people understand:

  • The swathe of activity between consumption and production; i.e. the complexity of what goes on above the red line.
  • And there is a busy arrays of functions below the red line that makes it all happen.

Only when you grasp the functions of CO2 within the operational and organisational support; i.e. what happens below the red line, can you begin to grasp the extent of disruption when there are CO2 shortages.

Last time there were CO2 shortages was just over three years ago. Then providers and retailers of carbonated drinks, as well as meat processors, were among the first to shout out. I can only speculate that they were better prepared this time round . . .

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I mentioned the HGV driver shortage above, a labour issue that inevitably affects every function across the whole supply sector, as this tweet from @chrisfruitnet about this FT article: Britain’s fruit and veg farmers cut 2020 planting after widespread waste:

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The function map highlights the many ways in which food supplies can be disrupted. What with all the risks to the UK system, we can expect more and  more severe disruptions soon. The only way to assure supplies is through having a rotating buffer contingency stock system — it’s feasible, too, as our scenarios work with people across the sector indicated:

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The Birmingham Food Council is a Community Interest Company registered in England and Wales number 8931789