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MINISTERS have struck a deal which could see tens of millions of pounds forked out to a US company to help it restart carbon dioxide production.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said that without the “exceptional” agreement with CF Fertilisers there would have been risks to Britain’s food supply.
The US fertiliser manufacturer suspended production of CO2 at its plants in Teesside and Cheshire due to soaring energy costs amid the global hike in gas prices.
The firm produces 60 per cent of Britain’s CO2 supply.
The closures prompted fears of poultry, pig and bakery shortages, with CO2 vital to these industries for stunning animals and packaging goods to keep them fresh.
Mr Eustice defended the deal, brokered by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, insisting that the government “needed to act” to avoid impending food shortages.
“There would have been a real animal welfare challenge here and a big disruption to the food supply chain, so we felt we needed to act,” he told the BBC.
The Environment Secretary said that the final details of the agreement were still being worked on but “it’s going to be into many millions, possibly tens of millions.”
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband welcomed the short-term deal but said the government must now urgently engage with unions to explain any contingency plans if the problem is not solved in three weeks.
“Crucially, the government cannot keep blaming surging gas prices and supply chain chaos on external forces,” he said.
“It is a decade of Conservative missteps that has left the UK so exposed and vulnerable, without the diverse, resilient energy system we need to protect us from global volatility.
“It is businesses, consumers and families that are now paying the price.”
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